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Watchdog says police planned to clear the park before Trump Photo Op

A federal watchdog said Wednesday that United States Park Police had planned to clear protesters from a park near the White House before they were told President Donald J. Trump was going through the area.

The report from the Interior Ministry inspector general concluded that “the evidence did not support a finding” that park police cleared the park only for Mr Trump, who walked through the park on June 1 last year before posing for photographs in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church holds a Bible.

The outbreak of violence in Lafayette Park, which culminated in last summer̵

7;s racial protests, became one of the defining moments for the Trump presidency. Protesters in the shadow of the White House were pushed back with smoke and flash grenades and chemical spray blown up by shield-bearing riots and mounted police.

The 30-page report from the Interior Ministry inspector general provides new details on the park police’s decision-making. And the sequence of events described in the report suggests that the operation to clear the area became violent shortly after the park police were informed of Mr. Trump’s arrival.

But the author of the report was careful to warn that it should not be considered a final report of the day, partly because so many other law enforcement agencies were involved. Inspector General Mark L. Greenblatt noted that it was not in his jurisdiction to investigate what the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies knew and who may have ordered them to use force to clear the park.

“It was a complete review of everything in our jurisdiction,” said Mr. Greenblatt in an interview. “The unfortunate thing is that not everything is in our jurisdiction.”

The long-awaited report was ordered by congressional lawmakers and former Home Secretary David Bernhardt to find out the park police’s reasons for dispersing the protesters and whether it had been under orders to help stage a presidential image.

According to the report, park police planned to clear the park so contractors could install new fences around the area.

But protesters were still allowed to gather there all day. Sir. Greenblatt said it was because authorities were waiting for contractors to arrive and that there were enough police authorities to clear the park. It happened around noon. 5.30pm, less than an hour before William P. Barr, then Minister of Justice, came out to inspect the area himself.

Evidence showed that the park police did not know about Mr Trump’s plan to cross the park until “mid to late afternoon on June 1 – hours after it had begun developing its operational plan and the fence contractor had arrived at the park,” the report said. said.

The chief of operations for the park police learned about Trump’s plan when Barr came out to inspect the area, the report said.

“Will these people still be here when POTUS [President of the United States] coming out? ”Mr. Barr asked, according to the report.

The chief of operations replied to Mr. Barr: “Do you freak out laughing with me?” and then hung his head and walked away, the report said.

Shortly afterwards, the confrontation became violent.

Other agencies involved that day included the National Guard, the Capitol Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Sir. Greenblatt noted that the Secret Service started its efforts to clear the park before the park police issued its first proliferation warning. In a footnote, the report called the decision “contrary to the operational plan.”

Sir. Trump issued a statement Wednesday thanking the Inspector General for what he called “complete and utter exemption for me in clearing Lafayette Park!”

In an interview, Greenblatt said he did not appreciate the comment.

“It’s uncomfortable for me,” he said. “We are independent of any political administration. This is not at all pleasant for anyone in my community. ”

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