Police debunk widespread media narrative, say ‘tear gas’ not used to clear Lafayette Park for Trump

(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Reports that claim ‘peaceful demonstrators’ were tear-gassed at a Washington, D.C. park ahead of a visit Monday evening by President Donald Trump suggesting that he directed the action appear to be false.

According to a Twitter thread posted by WTOP reporter Neal Augenstein, “a source says tear gas was never used — instead smoke canisters were deployed, which don’t have an uncomfortable irritant in them. And, the source says Park Police didn’t know President Trump would be walking across the park several minutes later.”

Augenstein went on to reported that the reason why police moved against demonstrators in the first place was that they were being pelted by bottles.

“Another factor was that protesters had climbed on top of the structure at the north end of Lafayette Square that had been burned the day before,” he reported.

“Obviously, this is Park Police’s side of the story. I’ll be checking with @wtop reporters who were on the scene last night, to plug-in what they observed with what Park Police are telling me. Park Police will be releasing a statement later today,” Augenstein added.

He noted that “in theory,” it is possible that another law enforcement agency might have used tear gas.

Subsequent posts from Augenstein said he confirmed with Park Police that the agency’s officers did not deploy tear gas. A statement from the U.S. Secret Service, which also had agents and officers on the scene, was inclusive, as the agency refused to discuss methods used to protect the president, he said.

“For operational security reasons, the U.S. Secret Service does not discuss our protectees or our protective means and methods,” the agency said, according to Augenstein.

“Several people — including WTOP reporters — first reported they believed the substance was tear gas, but even they didn’t feel the extreme irritant experienced with prior tear gas events,” Augenstein noted further.

Some reporters who said they, too, were on the scene disputed Augenstein’s account, saying they experienced some tear gas and did not see anyone throwing any objects.

But the crux of the story — that Trump allegedly ordered the crowd tear-gassed — has also not been corroborated.

Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets and Democrats focused on President Trump’s decision to walk through Lafayette Square en route to historic St. John’s Cathedral, which had been lit on fire by rioters a day earlier.

Trump at one point held up a Bible as he stood in front of the church, an act that appeared to be too much for many liberals.

CNN reported it this way:

The stunning move prompted a visceral reaction among Democrats, who likened Trump’s actions to a dictator as they prepared legislation to condemn the use of force — including tear gas and rubber bullets — against Americans exercising their constitutional rights to protest.

But Republicans — for the most part — aligned squarely with the President, saying it was his right to take such action given at times the violent protests that have occurred in the United States and the need for him to demonstrate that the country would not stand for the actions of looters and “anarchists.”

One GOP senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, also suggested that media outlets were duped into buying reports that the president had police attack “peaceful protesters” just so he could stage a photo op.

“Many in the media fell for the calculated and deliberate tactics of professional agitators. They knew the street needed to be cleared before 7 pm curfew. But they deliberately stayed to trigger police action and get the story they wanted, that ‘police attacked peaceful protestors,’” he wrote on Twitter.

Later Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that U.S. Attorney General William Barr personally ordered Lafayette Park cleared after he became aware that the president was going to be walking to St. John’s Cathedral, citing a Justice Department official.


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Jon Dougherty


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