A National Guard commander who was present when authorities cleared Lafayette Square of protesters last month is expected to contradict Attorney General William Barr’s account of events.
In a statement posted to the House Natural Resources Committee website on Monday, Major Adam DeMarco said that “demonstrators were behaving peacefully” before authorities deployed “excessive use of force” against the protesters.
While Barr is on record insisting that a 7 p.m. curfew was not moved so the president could conduct a photo op at St. John’s Church, DeMarco tells a different story.
According to DeMarco, Park Police issued a warning at 6:20 p.m. that Lafayette Square would be cleared, but the warning was issued 50 yards from the protesters.
“[T]he announcements were barely audible and I saw no indication that the demonstrators were cognizant of the warnings to disperse,” he explained.
Just 10 minutes later, DeMarco said that he began to feel the effects of “tear gas,” which was familiar from his Army training. DeMarco claimed to have found spent “tear gas” canisters on the street.
For their part, Park Police have said that “tear gas” was never used.
By 7:05 p.m., DeMarco saw Trump entering the square, where he held up a Bible and had his picture taken.
“Having served in a combat zone, and understanding how to assess threat environments, at no time did I feel threatened by the protestors or assess them to be violent,” DeMarco concluded. “From my observation, those demonstrators – our fellow American citizens — were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”
In June, Barr said that there was “no correlation” between Trump’s photo op and the decision to move up the curfew.