Protesters were forcibly cleared from a park by tear gas, moments before US President Donald Trump marched through to a Washington DC church.
The forced removable of demonstrators from Lafayette Park, allowed Donald Trump to stage a walk to St John’s Church following an address at the White House.
Moments before Mr Trump’s address, US Secret Service agents, Park Police and National Guardsmen suddenly marched forward, directly confronting the protesters as many held up their hands, saying, “don’t shoot”.
Law-enforcement officers then aggressively forced the protesters back, firing tear gas and deploying flash bangs into the crowd to disperse them from the park for seemingly no reason.
The park was cleared for the President, who walked through it minutes later to the church, for a photo opportunity in which he posed with a Bible.
Mr Trump, standing alone in front of cameras, raised the black-covered Bible for reporters to see.
“We have a great country,” Mr Trump said. “Greatest country in the world.”
The Right Reverend Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, to which St John’s belongs, said she was “outraged” by the moment and noted that Mr Trump didn’t pray during his visit.
“He took the symbols sacred to our tradition and stood in front of a house of prayer in full expectation that it would be a celebratory moment,” Rev Budde told The Associated Press.
“There was nothing I could do but speak out against that.”
Rev Budde said the church was “just completely caught off-guard” by the visit, with “no sense that this was a sacred space to be used for sacred purposes”.
In order to facilitate Mr Trump’s statement there, she said, she believed tear gas was used in the area between the White House and the church.
He's using the American military against the American people.
He tear-gassed peaceful protesters and fired rubber bullets.
For a photo.
For our children, for the very soul of our country, we must defeat him. But I mean it when I say this: we can only do it together. https://t.co/G1yE67q9Nz
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 2, 2020
Meanwhile. US Speaker of the House, Naney Pelosi, said the actions against protesters were a dishonour to “every value that faith teaches us”.
Across our country, Americans are protesting for an end to the pattern of racial injustice and brutality we saw most recently in the murder of #GeorgeFloyd. Yet, at a time when our country cries out for unification, this President is ripping it apart.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) June 2, 2020
Police officers from Arlington, Virginia, which borders Washington DC, have been withdrawn from the national capital.
In a statement released to media on Monday night local time, administrators and the police chief ordered their officers to cross the Potomac River and return to Arlington.
An arrangement between Arlington and Washington DC, allowed the Virgina-based officers to police the city, however the safety concerns led to the withdrawal.
“At the direction of the County Board, County Manager and Police Chief, all ACPD officers left the District of Columbia at 8:30 tonight,” the statement read.
“The County is re-evaluating the agreements that allowed our officers to be put in a compromising position that endangered their health and safety, and that of the people around them, for a purpose not worthy of our mutual aid obligations.”