A USA government watchdog on Wednesday released a report finding that federal police did not clear protesters from a park near the White House last summer so that former president Donald Trump could walk to a nearby church for a photo opportunity.
"We found that the USPP had the authority and discretion to clear Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1", the report states.
The report from the Office of Inspector General revealed that in response to previous days of violent protests, "On the morning of June 1, the Secret Service procured antiscale fencing to establish a more secure perimeter around Lafayette Park that was to be delivered and installed that same day". "USPP and open-source video evidence we reviewed showed at least one [Bureau of Prisons] officer shooting pepper balls toward H Street from inside Lafayette Park but did not show protesters breaching the bike-rack fence line".
The demonstrators were protesting the death of George Floyd, who died after a then-Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and pinned him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes.
The report determined that the decision to clear the protestors was justified, but that law enforcement agencies on the scene failed to effectively communicate with each other and failed to communicate warnings to the protestors about the impending crackdown. Rather, the investigation found that poor communication between agencies and ineffective dispersal warnings "may have contributed to confusion during the operation and the use of tactics that appeared inconsistent".
In response to the report, Trump issued a statement in which he thanked Greenblatt for "Completely and Totally exonerating" him over the matter.
Law enforcement cleared the park by 6:50 p.m. and at 7:01 p.m. Trump walked from the White House through Lafayette Park to St. John's Church.
Shortly after the area was cleared, Mr. Trump, flanked by some members of his Cabinet and White House staff, walked across the park to St. John's Church, a part of which had been set on fire the prior night.
Groups like BLM and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) later sued Trump and his Attorney General Bill Barr for forcefully removing protestors from the square.
Trump called the report an "exoneration" in a statement.
"Are these people still going to be here when POTUS [President of the United States] comes out?" "The Park Police commander is shocked by this and says, according to the report, "Are you freaking kidding me"?" "The USPP operations commander heard the change in the crowd, saw the Attorney General, and walked over to him".
The incident commander with the Park Police told the inspector general's office that he, too, was never informed of Mr. Trump's specific plans or when he planned to leave the White house.
The report goes on to state that the park had instead been cleared to allow space for the contractor to install the fencing, and that they didn't know about President Trump's plans until alter in the afternoon on June 1.
Narrow in scope, the investigation from the Interior Department's inspector general focused on the U.S. Park Police actions and did not examine individual uses of force by officers, which are at the center of ongoing lawsuits or separate investigations.