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National Guardsman: Removing protesters from Lafayette Square was an 'unprovoked escalation'

A National Guard official will testify that a Park Police operation to remove demonstrators from Lafayette Square in front of the White House on June 1 was an "unprovoked escalation" against protesters "engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights."

These comments are part of the written testimony of District of Columbia National Guard Major Adam DeMarco, who is slated to appear before the House Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday alongside acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan. 

DeMarco is expected to testify that he was serving as a liaison between the city’s National Guard and Park Police in Lafayette Square on June 1, the day that protesters there were subjected to pepper balls and smoke canisters in an effort to clear the area. 

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After the space was cleared, President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE walked through the park and was photographed in front of the nearby St. John’s Church.

“Upon arrival, I received a briefing from my liaison with the Park Police and learned that the DC National Guard’s task would be to support a Park Police operation to clear demonstrators from the vicinity of Lafayette Square,” his testimony says. 

“The Park Police plan was to clear H Street between Vermont Avenue to the east and Connecticut Avenue to the west, and move north on Vermont Avenue, 16th Street, and Connecticut Avenue to extend the security perimeter,” he’s expected to say. “The immediate objective of this clearing operation, I was told, was to install a larger security barricade on H Street along the northern edge of Lafayette Square."

A spokesperson for the National Park Service, which oversees the Park Police, directed The Hill to a previous statement by Monahan which said 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 but did not mention any sort of “operation” to clear protesters. 

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However, Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump administration pressured federal prosecutors to settle investigation into Turkish bank: report DOJ shifts, will allow local police to wear body cameras during operations with federal agents Police accountability board concludes that Seattle police officers used excessive force during encounters with protesters MORE has told The Associated Press about a meeting that had occurred earlier about moving protesters away from the area. 

In his testimony on Tuesday, DeMarco is also expected to say he did not believe the protesters were violent. 

“Those demonstrators — our fellow American citizens — were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force,” he’ll say. 

His testimony also describes officers using “paintball-like” weapons to fire pepper balls at people. 

“I saw demonstrators scattering and fleeing as the Civil Disturbance Unit charged toward them. I observed people fall to the ground as some Civil Disturbance Unit members used their shields offensively as weapons,” the testimony says. “I also observed unidentified law enforcement personnel behind our National Guardsmen using ‘paintball-like’ weapons to discharge what I later learned to be 'pepper balls' into the crowd, as demonstrators continued to retreat.”

—Updated at 7:39 p.m.