When protesters were cleared from Lafayette Park and the nearby area on June 1, media across the country reported that tear gas was employed by multiple law enforcement agencies to drive out peaceful protesters.
On that Monday after order was restored, President Donald Trump and others in his administration walked from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church to view the damage done to the historic structures by protesters and to show the administration commitment to protecting the nation’s capital.
The protests were part of a nationwide response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.
As Breitbart News reported, the United States Park Police issued a statement on June 2 about the injuries inflicted on dozens of police officers during what they called “violent protests” where frozen water bottles, bricks, and “caustic liquids” were used against them.
Breitbart News asked the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, the Hill, and the Los Angeles Times why their newsrooms continue to falsely report that tear gas was used against peaceful protesters.
Media Mum on False Reporting
The only media outlet that responded was Norman Pearlstine, the executive editor of the Los Angeles Times.
Pearlstine’s response via email called the Park Police statement, “carefully worded” and disagreed with it:
We concluded that tear gas was used in Lafayette Park.
Officials agree that the law enforcement agencies on scene fired canisters of OC gas (oleoresins capiscum), a pepper-spray agent that is widely used as a riot-control chemical. They admitted that fact because reporters on scene discovered OC canisters on the ground after the park was cleared of protestors.
The administration’s position since that discovery has been that OC gas is not “tear gas” – a term that they say should be reserved for two other chemical agents commonly used in riot control, chloroacetophenone (CN), also known as mace, and chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS).
We disagree. OC gas is designed to control crowds by causing people’s eyes to uncontrollably tear and their throats to swell up, generating a choking sensation. It’s often used by police agencies interchangeably with CS gas. In any common-sense use of the term, it’s tear gas.
Even if we were to accept the administration’s desire to impose their own restrictive definition on a commonly used term, the claim that only OC gas was used appears to be false. Since the White House began pushing this line, reporters from WUSA-TV, based in DC, have discovered CS canisters on the ground at Lafayette Park, as well.
Pearlstine’s email also said that aside from the park police, other law enforcement groups, including military police, were used to clear Lafayette Park and the nearby area.
Breitbart News asked the Park Police several questions to clarify who was deployed on June 1 and what techniques were used to restore order.
Although the agency did not answer the questions directly, Acting Chief of the Park Police Gregory T. Monahan issued an additional statement on Saturday about the events surrounding protests at the end of May and the start of June when protests were bubbling up in the District.
Police Task Was Restoring Order
That statement repeats the denial of the use of tear gas as well naming the law enforcement agencies that were employed. In addition, it states the park and surrounding area was cleared not to allow Trump to visit the church but to allow for a protective fence to be installed:
The statement was emailed to Breitbart News:
In assisting the USSS [United States Secret Service] with their protective mission of the White House Zone, more than 50 U.S. Park Police Officers sustained injuries, some being hospitalized, throughout the operational period starting on May 29th. This illegal behavior by the protestors also resulted in several structure fires and significant property damage. This is indisputable.
Following the violence that continued on May 30th where officers were hit with bricks and assaulted, the USSS and USPP had initial discussions regarding adjustments to the collective posture in Lafayette Park and potentially obtaining fencing. As violence and destruction continued in Washington, DC, putting both the public and law enforcement at risk, on Sunday, May 31, USSS confirmed with USPP that the anti-scale fencing would be procured and potentially delivered on Monday for installation along H Street.
On Monday, June 1, USPP received confirmation from the USSS that the fencing would be delivered during the day with the expectation of being installed in the evening. Both agencies concurred with a plan to clear H Street to prevent a repeat of the protestors’ attacks and destruction that occurred on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and to create a safe environment for the fence to be installed. Pedestrians were to be moved from the immediate area of the 1600 block of H Street to the following points: H Street & Connecticut Avenue on the west, 16th & I Streets to the north, H St. east of Vermont Avenue to the east.
The timing of implementing the plan was contingent upon having enough resources on scene. Given that the majority of law enforcement personnel did not report until later in the day, a late afternoon or early evening operation was inevitable.
Reiterating my previous statement, at approximately 6:33 pm, violent protestors on H Street NW continued to throw projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids. The protestors also climbed onto a historic building at the north end of Lafayette Park that was destroyed by arson the previous day. Intelligence had revealed calls for violence against the police, and officers found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats and metal poles hidden along the street.
To curtail the violence that was underway, the USPP, following standard operating procedures, issued three warnings over a loudspeaker to alert demonstrators on H Street to evacuate the area. Horse mounted patrol, Civil Disturbance Units and additional personnel were used to clear the area. As many of the protestors became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, grab officer’s protective equipment, and even attempted to grab one officers’ weapon, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters, stinger balls, and pepper balls. On June 1, USPP officers and other assisting law enforcement partners operating under the command of the USPP did not use tear gas or Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park. Subsequently, the fence was installed.
This operation to secure the area and install the fence – that had been discussed as early as two days prior – was completely irrespective of the President’s later movement from the White House and unbeknownst to U.S. Park Police.
The installation of the fence proved to successfully limit the amount of assaults and injuries sustained by Force personnel. The amount of injuries dramatically decreased beginning June 2, 2020 throughout the rest of the week. It also allowed for time, space and manner for those who wished to peacefully demonstrate.
Park Police Did Not Wear Gas Masks
The Park Police said that in addition to their officers, officers from the Federal Protective Service, United States Marshals Service, the National Guard, and the Arlington County Police Department were deployed.
“No other units were included in this plan or authorized to participate,” the agency said.
In addition, Park Police said none of the officers on this mission wore gas masks, equipment that is vital to protect those using it.
According to the Poynter Institute, there is a distinct difference between pepper spray and other deterrents:
Pepper spray is different from CN, CS and CR substances. While under the CDC’s definition it could also be a kind of tear gas, pepper spray is different in chemical makeup. Pepper spray, called OC, comes from natural compounds — capsaicin, which is the active ingredient in hot peppers — as opposed to the manmade compounds in the others.
The L.A. Times’ Pearlstine said its Washington bureau “looked into reports about the use of tear gas after the administration began to question those reports.”
The June 2 statement from the Park Police also said that despite the violence at the protests, no arrests were made.
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