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Internal watchdog probing Park Police actions toward Lafayette Square protesters

Internal watchdog probing Park Police actions toward Lafayette Square protesters
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An internal government watchdog is probing the Park Police’s actions toward protesters who earlier this month were dispersed from in front of the White House by law enforcement with chemical agents. 

“Given the significance of the events, we have already begun collecting and reviewing information,” a  spokesperson for the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General told The Hill in an email on Monday, adding that the review follows requests from three lawmakers as well as Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. 

“After we make an initial determination of which agency had command and control of the law enforcement operations, we will conduct a review of Park Police actions accordingly,” the spokesperson added.

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The Park Police and National Park Service (NPS), which oversees the Park Police, is "fully cooperating with the Office of the Inspector General," an NPS spokesperson told The Hill in an email.

On June 1, law enforcement used chemical agents to clear protesters who were demonstrating against police brutality in Lafayette Square following the police killing of George Floyd.

Shortly thereafter, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE walked through the park to visit a nearby church. Critics have expressed the belief that protesters were removed for a presidential photo opportunity. 

Acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan said after the incident that smoke canisters and pepper balls were used to combat “violent” protesters. 

He added that the demonstrators threw bricks, frozen water bottles and “caustic” liquids at officers. However, Attorney General William BarrBill BarrNew DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day MORE described to The Associated Press a meeting about moving protesters away from the area in advance. 

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Monahan also initially denied that tear gas was used; however, a park police spokesperson later said this characterization was a “mistake.”

The incident prompted Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans MORE (D-Ore.), as well as Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Deb HaalandDebra HaalandFormer Sen. Carol Moseley Braun stumps for Interior post: 'A natural fit for me' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet MORE (D-N.M.) to ask the inspector general to “investigate whether the Park Police’s use of force in Lafayette Park complied with applicable law, regulations and agency guidance, including standards set by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.”

—Updated at 7:28 p.m.