National Guard officer: Lafayette Square protesters faced ‘unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force’
DeMarco was among the DC National Guardsmen stationed in Lafayette Square on June 1 when federal authorities used tear gas and pop grenades to purge peaceful protesters gathered to protest racial injustice and the murder of black people by law enforcement. Once the square was cleared, President Donald Trump walked across it from the White House for a photo-op with a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, where rioters had lit a small fire the night before.
The effects of the photo op were rapid. Politicians condemned the tear gas from protesters and top military officials accompanying Trump apologized for their role in the incident. Officials of the U.S. Park Police, under the jurisdiction of Lafayette Square, initially claimed that their officers did not use tear gas to clear the square, but later admitted that chemical irritants had been deployed.
“In my opinion, those protesters – our fellow American citizens – were peacefully expressing their First Amendment rights,” DeMarco wrote. “Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”
The White House has defended the decision to clear the square and compared Trump’s walk with former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s survey of war damage in London during World War II and former President George W. Bush’s ceremonial first pitch in the Yankee Stadium during the World Series following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
According to DeMarco’s report, the park police said they would remove protesters from Lafayette Square along with the Secret Service to build a fence around the White House. But the materials needed to build the safety barrier didn’t arrive until 9 p.m., and the barrier wasn’t completed until later in the evening, DeMarco wrote.
The DC guard added that Major General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had told him to keep the National Guard personnel calm and said the National Guard was there to protect the rights of the protesters. respect, wrote the DC security guard.
DeMarco, whose testimony describes his June 1 mission as a “liaison between the DC National Guard Task Force Civil Disturbance and the Lafayette Square Park Police,” said US park police warnings to protesters to disperse from the square, inaudible. He also said he had been assured by a Park Police contact that tear gas would not be used.
“But I felt irritation in my eyes and nose, and based on my previous tear gas exposure during my training at West Point and later during my army training, I recognized that irritation as effects similar to CS or ‘tear gas’,” DeMarco wrote . “And later that night I found used tear gas bottles on the street nearby.”
On July 24, the Inspectors General of the Department of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior launched an investigation into law enforcement actions taken on Lafayette Square on June 1.
DeMarco closed his statement with a quote from Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), The deceased civil rights icon placed in the state on Monday in the United States Capitol.
“” When you see something that’s not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. ” ‘