Lawmakers welcome IG probe into violent police clearing of Lafayette Square

Lawmakers welcome IG probe into violent police clearing of Lafayette Square
President Donald J. Trump walks from the White House Monday evening, June 1, 2020, to St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as the church of Presidents’s, that was damaged by fire during demonstrations in nearby LaFayette Square Sunday evening. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday welcomed news that an Interior Department watchdog has begun an official probe into law enforcement's violent attack on peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square outside the White House earlier this month.

"The Trump administration has had three weeks to offer a clear explanation of why it used excessive force against accredited journalists and peaceful, unarmed protesters, but we still have no good answers," Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement.

"The White House narrative is contradicted by video evidence, eyewitness accounts, and even its own past statements. Frankly, it has no credibility at this point," he said.

The statement from Grijalva, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), was in response to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announcement that it would review the U.S. Park Police's actions when they, and other forces, violently cleared away peaceful Black Lives Matters demonstrators on June 1 so that President Donald Trump could walk to St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo-op.

In his letter to the lawmakers, who'd requested the investigation, Interior Department Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt wrote, "Given the significance of the events, we have already begun collecting and reviewing information concerning the Park Police's activities."

"It is worth noting that the active presence of multiple federal law enforcement agencies operating in Lafayette Square at that time adds complex operational and jurisdictional challenges to our oversight efforts. Therefore, we will make an initial determination of which agency had command and control of the law enforcement operation and conduct a review of Park Police actions accordingly," Greenblatt wrote in the letter, dated June 18.

Wyden, in his statement, said that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt must face scrutiny for his role in the incident.

"The American people need to know who ordered the horrific attacks against peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park earlier this month, especially since no one in the Trump administration will take responsibility. David Bernhardt refuses to own up to his own role in this scandal and continues to deny basic answers to the American people," said Wyden.

"The First Amendment rights to free speech, peaceful assembly, and free press are the bedrock of all other rights," Wyden continued, "and I am hopeful that the Inspector General will get to the bottom of who ordered the Park Police to muzzle these rights all so Donald Trump could stage a photo op."

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