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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 TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech 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 BarrDominion: Ex-Michigan state senator 'sowing discord in our democracy' with election fraud claims Hunter Biden says he doesn't know if Delaware laptop was his Gaetz showed lawmakers nude photos of women he claimed to have slept with: report 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 WydenThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally A bold fix for US international taxation of corporations Democrats offer competing tax ideas on Biden infrastructure MORE (D-Ore.), as well as Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dakota Access pipeline to remain in operation despite calls for shutdown | Biden hopes to boost climate spending by B | White House budget proposes .4B for environmental justice Haaland return sets up Biden decision on Utah national monuments shrunk by Trump Biden hopes to boost climate spending by billion 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.