Internal watchdog probing Park Police actions toward Lafayette Square protesters
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.
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 Trump 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 Barr described to The Associated Press a meeting about moving protesters away from the area in advance.
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 Wyden (D-Ore.), as well as Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Deb Haaland (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.