An attorney for DC police said the agency used 'tear gas' in Lafayette Square Park ahead of Trump's bible photo-op: report

  • An attorney for the Metropolitan Police Department defended the agency’s use of tear gas last year, WUSA9 reported.
  • The MPD has continued to deny its involvement in clearing protestors ahead of Trump’s bible photo-op in Lafayette Square last June.
  • The MPD and federal police are being sued by the ACLU-DC over their actions in June last year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An attorney for the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department said that MPD officers used tear gas on June 1 last year when protestors were cleared from Lafayette Square and the surrounding area ahead of then-President Donald Trump’s photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“The curfew, violence of past nights, chaos created by federal defendants, discharge of tear gas in that direction was not unreasonable,” attorney Richard Sobiecki, representing MPD, said, according to a report from local news outlet WUSA9. 

The lawyer’s comments come as part of the American Civil Liberties Union of DC lawsuit against MPD and federal police over their use of tear gas last year when they cleared Lafayette Square.

Sobiecki argued that officers did not violate the demonstrators’ constitutional rights because they “did not target specific protesters,” according to the report.

The Metropolitan Police Department did not return Insider’s request for comment Sunday. 

The incident occurred nearly a year ago, on June 1, 2020, amid nationwide protests in response to a Minneapolis police officer’s killing of  George Floyd. As The Washington Post previously reported, authorities just after 6:30 p.m. ahead of the city’s then-7 p.m. curfew fired flash-bang shells and rubber bullets into the crowd and used gas to make way for Trump.

After demonstrators had been removed, Trump gave a brief speech in the Rose Garden before he left the White House grounds, walked through Lafayette Square where protestors had been, and posed for a photo holding a bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law-enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” Trump said last year prior to the widely criticized photo-op. “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

During a June 2, 2020, press conference, Newsham said he was aware that Trump would be moving into Lafayette Square but said “the Metropolitan Police Department did not participate in that movement,” the City Paper reported.

The Washington City Paper in July last year reported that video appeared to show that MPD officers had deployed the use of tear gas on the June 1 incident, contradicting statements from MPD Chief Peter Newsham that his officers weren’t involved in the clearing of protestors.

A police spokesperson told the City Paper at the time MPD was “not involved in the unscheduled movement of the president from Lafayette Square.”

As WUSA9 reported, protestors present at the time also said they saw MPD police officers using tear gas as they fled tear gas that was used by federal police. The White House at the time disputed the characterization of the substances used on peaceful protestors as tear gas. 

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