The U.S. Park Police pushed back against media reports that it utilized tear gas to remove protesters from Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., Monday evening as a way to clear the path for President Trump's impromptu visit to St. John's Church.
The Park Police denied the use of tear gas while also correcting media efforts to describe the Lafayette Park protests as peaceful demonstrations.
"At approximately 6:33 p.m., violent protesters on H Street NW began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles, and caustic liquids," the USPP said in a statement. "The protestors also climbed onto a historic building at the north end of Lafayette Park that was destroyed by arson days prior. Intelligence had revealed calls for violence against the police, and officers found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats and metal poles hidden along the street."
Rather than tear gas, Park Police said that smoke canisters and pepper balls were utilized as countermeasures.
"As many of the protesters became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, and attempted to grab officers' weapons, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls," the USPP said. "No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park."
The Trump campaign immediately seized on the Park Police statement in its ongoing battles with what the president calls the "fake news" media.
"It's said that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on," said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump 2020 communications director. "This tear gas lie is proof of that. For nearly an entire day, the whole of the press corps frantically reported the ‘news' of a tear gas attack on ‘peaceful' protesters in Lafayette Park, with no evidence to support such claims. We now know through the U.S. Park Police that neither they, nor any of their law enforcement partners, used tear gas to quell rising violence."
Despite the denial, many activists and commentators remain highly critical of the government's use of force in deploying flash bangs and aggressively driving back the gathered crowd.
➡️ Go Further: Follow Disrn's full coverage of the protests and riots here.