American Oversight Files FOIAs for Records of Use of Force on Peaceful Protesters

On Monday evening around 6:30 p.m. — about a half hour before the District of Columbia’s curfew was to start — the U.S. Park Police along with the Secret Service and National Guard fired tear gas canisters into a crowd of people peacefully protesting at the White House.

That such a use of force, including concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and physical charges, was unleashed on people demonstrating against police brutality was alarming enough, but it also quickly became clear that the rapid clearing-out of Lafayette Square was done so President Donald Trump could stage an ill-conceived and hollow photo opportunity in front of the nearby church.

According to the Washington Post, the order to push back protesters so Trump could appear in front of St. John’s Church came personally from Attorney General William Barr. Barr had reportedly been part of the decision to extend the perimeter around the square, and on Monday “conferred with law enforcement officials on the ground” and, as one Justice Department official told the Post, “basically said” to “get it done.”

On Tuesday, American Oversight filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the National Park Service, the Secret Service, the National Guard and the Department of Defense for records of any order or directive for the use of force as well as for records that identify which federal officials ordered the action. American Oversight intends to get to the bottom of this disturbing and authoritarian action against civilians lawfully gathered in a public place.