Protesters were heavily cleared just before Trump’s controversial photo in a nearby church, where he was holding up a Bible after declaring himself “president of law and order.”
However, according to the watchdog’s report, “The evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP cleared the park to allow the president to investigate the damage and go to St. John’s Church.”
While the report says park police followed appropriate policies, it points out how the situation worsened. For example, the prison bureau arrived late at the scene, which meant they missed a briefing in which police were asked not to use pepper bullet ammunition unless protesters violated the bike racks around the area. It is not clear if they understood the rules of engagement, and video evidence showed a Bureau of Prisons officer firing peppercorns from inside the park, despite protesters remaining outside the perimeter of the bike rack.
In addition, the report found that Park Police had issued three proliferation warnings before clearing the area, but it was clear that the message was not audible to everyone in the crowd.
The Inspector General’s report specifically reviewed the actions taken by the park police that fall under domestic jurisdiction through the National Park Service. The inspector’s investigation was carried out at the request of then-Interior Minister David Bernhardt and lawmakers.
The report shows that on May 30, after assessing recent acts of violence in the midst of ongoing protests, the Park Police and Secret Service decided “to establish a safer perimeter around Lafayette Park and discussed the acquisition of an anti-shell fence.”
On the morning of June 1, the Park Police and Secret Service began developing a plan for a contractor to install fences that would require the park to be cleared. At noon that day, Secret Service said the fence contractor could continue, and the contractor’s employees arrived later that afternoon to install the fences.
According to the report, the Park Police incident chief said he would have secured the perimeter earlier if there were enough officers in place (the report says many officers did not report for duty until later in the afternoon due to late hours the previous days).
It was only in the middle of the late afternoon that day that park police became aware of the possibility of Trump’s potential move to the park, the report said, and they were not given a specific time.
According to the report, “the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install anti-scale fences in response to property destruction and damage to officers that occurred on May 30 and 31. Further, the evidence showed “The USPP did not know about the president’s potential move until mid – late afternoon on June 1 – hours after it had begun developing its operational plan and the fencing contractor had arrived at the park.”
“We did not clear the park of a photo-op,” testified acting chief Gregory Monahan. “There was 100%, zero, no correlation between our operation and the president’s visit to the church.”
The inspector’s report also notes that it was found that Barr’s visit to Lafayette Park did not change the Park Police’s plans to clear the park.
“Both the USPP incident and operations commands told us that the USPP had launched the plan to clear Lafayette Park before the Attorney General arrived and that his presence had no bearing on the USPP’s timeline or decisions,” the report said.
But the report notes in a footnote that they did not interview Secret Service staff, “so we can not assess whether the attorney general’s visit to the park or a planned presidential move influenced the Secret Service’s actions, including its early deployment to H Street.”
The Inspector General’s report also stated that there were “weaknesses in the operation to clear the park, including the deployment of the US intelligence service before the USPP began its proliferation warnings and the inability of the USPP to issue proliferation warnings high enough for all to hear. and to tell protesters where to go before the clearing operation begins. “