On Monday evening President Trump gave his first address at the White Houses since the protests - sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin - began. In his address, President Trump stated that the rioting and looting as a result of Floyd’s death are “acts of domestic terror”. President Trump acknowledged that he is “rightly sickened and revolted” like the rest of America by the death of George Floyd. But, in his speech in the Rose Garden, he continued to state that ,“If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.” President Trump announced a new reign of "law and order" to crush the riots across the country. After his speech, the National Guard’s military police - equipped with riot shields - aided law enforcement officers in holding back protesters outside of the White House as President Trump walked across the street to be photographed in front of St John’s Church in Washington D.C.
Police officers reportedly used flash grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas to clear a path through the protesters for President Trump. The president reasons that the photo-op was symbolic of the reign of “law and order” he is attempting to achieve. The church, which was boarded up following a fire in the parish house basement during protests on May 31st, has been heavily defaced by protesters. President Trump stood in front of the church to have pictures taken, while holding a Bible, and walked directly back to the White House after a few minutes. Trump was accompanied to the church by National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Attorney General Bill Barr, Senior Adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
President Trump’s photo-op has drawn many critics. Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, for one, heavily criticized President Trump’s visit to St. John’s. She has expressed “outrage” that President Trump walked to the church “after he threatened to basically rain down military force.” She wasn’t happy that he used the church as a “backdrop” and failed to pray when he was at St. John’s, a church which he has never attended for service.“The president used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without even asking us, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for,” she said in one of her interviews. Others share Budde’s sentiments. Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington used the word “shameful” when describing the federal police’s use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades to clear the protesters.
The White House adamantly claims that there was no use of tear gas on the protesters outside of St. John’s Church. The U.S. Park Police said in a statement on June 2nd that "no tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park," while also stating they had utilized "pepper balls" and "smoke canisters" that could produce the same effects and visuals of tear gas. The ACLU and protesters have sued President Trump and some of his Cabinet members for a “violation of constitutional rights” when clearing the area in front of the church.
Article By Alyssa Crum
Picture provided by bostonglobe.com