DC mayor ‘didn’t see provocation’ before move to clear Lafayette Square
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said Tuesday she did not see a reason for National Guard troops and federal law enforcement officials to deploy tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades against largely peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House.
The assault on protesters came late Monday as President Trump declared himself “your law and order president” in an address to the nation. Moments later, Trump crossed the park for a photo shoot at St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been damaged during earlier protests.
“I didn’t see any provocation that would warrant munitions, especially for the purpose of moving the president across the street,” Bowser told reporters Tuesday.
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Peter Newsham said he had heard from federal officials that Trump would be on the move just moments before the actions in Lafayette Square. He said MPD officers were not involved in the president’s trip to the church.
Bowser also said city officials had heard from other jurisdictions that the Pentagon had asked for National Guard troops to deploy in Washington. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) refused Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s request to send troops. Several other states, including Maryland, agreed to the request.
“We become concerned about any police or non-police force in our District that does not share our values and are not accountable to the police chief or to me,” Bowser said. “I don’t think that the military should be used on the streets of American cities against Americans. And I definitely don’t think it should be done for a show.”
Newsham said the city’s police force had arrested more than 300 people Monday, most for breaking a city-imposed curfew that began at 7 p.m. Some people were arrested for burglary and rioting, he added.
He also said a federal agency was responsible for deploying military helicopters in a so-called “show of force” tactic to disperse protesters. The helicopters buzzed low over protesters late into the night, at one point snapping a tree that nearly hit several people.
“I don’t know if it was helpful. I can say that,” Newsham said of the use of helicopters. “If asked in the future if that was a helpful tactic, my response would be ‘no.’ “
Bowser said the majority of protesters had adhered to the 7 p.m. curfew. She urged District residents to respect the curfew again on Tuesday evening. Residents voting in Tuesday’s primary elections will still be able to cast ballots until 8 p.m., when the polls close.
“What we observed last night is protesters largely complying with the curfew, and we’re going to implore them to comply with the curfew again,” she said.
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