WASHINGTON – A federal guard said Wednesday that United States parking police had planned to evacuate protesters from a park near the White House long before they learned that President Donald J. Trump would be walking around last year.
The Home Office Inspector General’s report concluded that “the evidence did not support a finding” that park police had only cleared the area for Mr. Trump, who was at 1st John’s Episcopal Church with a Bible.
The outbreak of violence in Lafayette Square last summer at the height of the protests against racial justice became one of the defining moments of the Trump presidency. Protesters in the shadow of the White House were pushed back with smoke, lightning grenades and chemical sprays used by riot police wearing riot rioters and mounted police.
The 30-page report from the Inspector General of the Interior Ministry offers new details on the decision-making of the park police. And the sequence of events described in the report suggests that the operation to evacuate the area turned violent shortly after the park police were notified of the arrival of Mr Trump.
However, the report’s author carefully warned that it should not be considered the final report of the day, partly because so many other law enforcement agencies were involved. The Inspector General, Mark L. Greenblatt, stated that it was not his responsibility to investigate what the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies knew and who might have ordered them to evacuate the park by force.
“It was a full review of everything in our jurisdiction,” Mr Greenblatt said in an interview. “The unfortunate thing is that not everything is our responsibility.”
The long-awaited report was ordered by MPs of Congress and former Home Secretary David Bernhardt to find out why the park police had dispersed the protesters and whether they were assigned to assist in a photo op of the president.
According to the report, park police planned to evacuate the area so contractors could install new fences.
But the demonstrators were allowed to gather there all day. Mr Greenblatt said this was because authorities were waiting for contractors to arrive and enough law enforcement officers to show up to clear the park. That happened around 5:30 p.m., less than an hour before then Attorney General William P. Barr came to inspect the area himself.
Evidence showed that park police until “June 1st, mid to late afternoon on June 1st – hours after they started developing their deployment plan and the fence contractor arrived” of Mr. Trump’s plan to walk through the park , didn’t know anything. said the report.
The park police operations chief learned of the plan from Mr. Trump when Mr. Barr came to inspect the area, the report said.
“Are these people still here when POTUS comes out?” Asked Mr. Barr, citing the President of the United States, according to the report.
The operations commander replied to Mr. Barr, “Are you kidding me?” Then he hung his head and walked away, the report says.
Shortly afterwards, the confrontation turned violent.
Other agencies involved that day included the National Guard, the United States Capitol Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Mr. Greenblatt noted that the Secret Service began its efforts to evacuate the park before the park police issued their first eviction warning. In a footnote, the report called this decision one that was “contrary to the operating plan”.
Mr Trump made a statement on Wednesday thanking the Inspector General for what he called “totally and completely relieved of my burden in the clearing of Lafayette Park”.
In an interview, Mr Greenblatt said he did not appreciate the comment.
“I feel uncomfortable,” he says. “We are independent of any political administration. This is not a comfortable floor for anyone in my community. “