Unidentified military personnel extend perimeter around the White House
Military personnel in Washington, D.C., at least some of whom were not wearing identifiers, extended the perimeter around the White House on Wednesday, blocking off access to LaFayette Square, where police clashed with protesters earlier this week.
A police force lined up near the corner of 16th Street and I Street, standing face to face with about 200 demonstrators in 90 degree heat in the middle of the afternoon. Businesses and shops in the vicinity boarded up their windows to prevent looting and vandalism.
The law enforcement personnel viewed by The Hill did not wear any identifiers. They were dressed in mixed riot gear, with helmets and face masks, shields and guns loaded with crowd control agents.
Back outside the White House. Today the perimeter has been pushed back another half block. Federal law enforcement of some kind, but they won’t identify themselves, and all insignias and name plates have been removed. pic.twitter.com/q5dmdMgkLV
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) June 3, 2020
The Hill reached out to the Department of Justice, Pentagon, White House and Park Police to ask what agency the military personnel came from. The Park Police said the police force was not theirs.
Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a law professor at the University of Dayton, said Armed Forces personnel are generally required to wear identifiers.
“As a general rule, members of the Army (Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserves) must wear an identifiable uniform,” Hoffmeister said. “The folks you see without an identifiable uniform are primarily federal law enforcement who don’t have the same requirements.”
The greater perimeter around the White House comes after several days of tense demonstrations in front of LaFayette Square, which sits directly in front of the White House.
Several hundred people gathered on H Street in front of the park Wednesday night for largely peaceful protests, lingering long beyond the 7 p.m. curfew. The city has since pushed the curfew back to 11 p.m.
On Tuesday night, the park was the sight of a stormy confrontation between law enforcement and protesters.
Military personnel fired smoke grenades and pepper bombs into the crowd — both of which contain chemical agents that react like tear gas on those who come into contact with them.
The Park Police claim that they were provoked into action by violence from the protesters, but the military’s move on the demonstration appeared to come without warning or provocation.
The police were clearing H Street as President Trump gave an address from the Rose Garden. The explosions from flash-bangs and smoke bombs could be heard at the White House as the president spoke.
Shortly after, Trump walked to St. John’s Episcopal Church to pose in front of the cameras holding a Bible. The historic church had been set on fire by vandals the night before.
Following that event, the city erected new fencing around the park to keep protesters at bay.