The chief of the U.S. Park Police testified Tuesday that protesters were not cleared from Lafayette Square in Washington on June 1 in the midst of unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Trump was later seen standing at Lafayette Square while holding a Bible in his hand.
“We were notified earlier in the day that the president was going to visit Lafayette Park to view the damage that was done to the park over the course of the preceding days, but we were not given a time on when he was visiting,” acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan said during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing.
The removal of protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter was not linked to President Trump’s plans to visit the park, the park chief said. He said he wasn’t ordered by the White House to do so, adding that Attorney General William Barr or Interior Secretary David Bernhardt also did not weigh in.
“There is 100 percent zero correlation between our operation and the president’s visit to the church,” Monahan said, adding, “We did not clear the park for a photo op.”
Floyd’s death on May 25 sparked demonstrations, riots, arson attacks, and vandalism across many major U.S. cities.
On June 1, protesters were forced out of the park by several law enforcement agencies, including Park Police. Some reporters claimed that they used non-lethal munitions and clubs to disperse the protesters.
Sometime after that, Trump crossed the square and held up a Bible near St. John’s Church. The night before, George Floyd-related rioters in Washington attempted to set the church on fire, causing minor damage, and at the same time, they looted businesses, set fires, and clashed with police near the White House.
“We’re very happy to report that the rest of the church and parish house is untouched except for some exterior graffiti, which the city’s graffiti team has already covered up,” the church said in a statement at the time.
About three weeks later, vandals and protesters attempted to pull down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square.
A major in the DC National Guard, Adam DeMarco, will testify on Tuesday that Park Police acted unlawfully that day. DeMarco previously ran as a Democrat for Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District in 2018.
“The demonstrators were behaving peacefully, exercising their First Amendment rights,” he is expected to say in front of the panel.