White House: ‘No regrets’ about handling of protesters in Lafayette Square
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday that the White House has no regrets about how federal law enforcement forcibly cleared protesters from Lafayette Square the week prior.
“There’s no regrets on the part of this White House,” McEnany said at a briefing Monday afternoon. “I’d note that many of those decisions were not made here within the White House. It was [Attorney General William] Barr who made the decision to move the perimeter. Monday night Park Police had also made that decision independently when they saw all the violence in Lafayette Square.”
McEnany defended the decision by the U.S. Park Police to use chemical agents to clear protesters from the park outside the White House, claiming police issued three warnings before doing so and that protesters hurled projectiles at law enforcement officers.
“That was unacceptable. Park Police acted as they felt they needed to at that time in response,” McEnany said. “We stand by those actions.”
McEnany also pointed to a fire set at historic St. John’s Church and video of a demonstrator carving a piece of cement from the sidewalk as evidence of violent protests accompanying peaceful demonstrations against the police-involved death of George Floyd. McEnany said the incidents — which occurred on Sunday, the day before Lafayette Square was cleared — contributed to the decision to expand the perimeter around the White House.
The Trump administration has withstood growing scrutiny for the clearing of the park over the past week. Religious leaders and some Republicans have criticized the administration for using force to clear the group of largely peaceful protesters shortly before President Trump staged a photo opportunity at St. John’s Church. James Mattis, Trump’s first Defense secretary, issued a stern rebuke of the president last week over the events and his threat to use the military to quell protests.
The Hill’s reporter who observed the scene of the protest last Monday did not observe projectiles being thrown. The Hill reported at the time that some protesters taunted and jeered at law enforcement.
In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Barr said the actions of law enforcement were appropriate and insisted those demonstrating on Monday “were not peaceful protesters.” Barr also said the decision to expand the perimeter around the park was made independently of Trump’s decision to walk to St. John’s Church, echoing remarks he made last week.
Trump also said last week that he believed the situation was “handled very well.”