The White House has “no regrets” regarding President Donald Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church on June 1, after police employed law enforcement measures to clear the area of protesters ahead of a curfew in nearby Lafayette Park.
“There’s no regrets on the part of this White House,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Monday.
“I’d note that many of those decisions were not made here within the White House. It was [Attorney General William] Barr who made the decision to move the perimeter, she added. “Monday night Park Police had also made that decision independently when they saw all the violence in Lafayette Square.”
She noted that some protesters had started “hurling objects” and condemned their actions as “unacceptable.”
“Park Police acted as they felt they needed to at that time in response,” she continued. “We stand by those actions.”
The church had been set on fire the night prior to when Trump decided to visit it, McEnany noted, pointing out that violent activities were occurring alongside peaceful demonstrations. The violence factored into the decision to expand the perimeter around the White House, she said.
McEnany’s message is consistent with that of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway who told reporters on June 2 that “there was a plan to expand the perimeter from H Street to I Street based on the events as they had unfolded the night before.”
Barr told CBS on Sunday that the decision to expand the perimeter around the park was made independently to Trump’s decision to walk to the church, and that he personally witnessed “projectiles being hurled at the police” by a “non-compliant crowd” on June 1.
U.S. Park Police evacuated protesters at Lafayette Square on June 1, ahead of a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser. Around 7 p.m. Trump made his way across the square from the White House to St. John’s Church—accompanied by a number of top aides—and held up a bible.
“We have the greatest country in the world,” Trump said at the church, where many past presidents have attended services. “We’re going to keep it safe.”
Trump was accompanied by a number of others, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Attorney General William Barr, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, and McEnany.
McEnany said that the U.S. Park Police had issued three loud warnings before moving to clear protesters, a remark in agreement with a U.S. Park Police statement issued on June 2.
According to the statement, police officers issued three warnings over a loudspeaker telling the demonstrators on H Street to leave the area.
Officers later used smoke canisters and pepper balls to help in dispersing the crowd, after a number of protesters “became more combative,” “attempted to grab officers’ weapons,” and “continued to throw projectiles” that included “bricks, frozen water bottles, and caustic liquids.”
George Floyd, a black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes during an arrest. Nationwide protests following Floyd’s death on May 25 have been, in many instances, subverted by acts of violence, arson, and looting.
Federal officials, including Barr, say such violent activities have been spurred and coordinated by outside agitators and radicals.
“We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity,” Barr told reporters on June 4. “We are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.”
McEnany on Monday told reporters that Trump “is sorry about the fact that Antifa wreaks havoc in our streets.”
Trump on May 31 announced that his administration will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.