D.C. Park Police are negating a widely publicized story that President Trump had tear gas fired at peaceful protesters to make a path for him to walk to St. John's Church after his address to the nation Monday evening.
WTOP reporter Neal Augenstein quoted a source within the Park Police and said "tear gas was never used -- instead smoke cannisters were deployed, which don't have an uncomfortable irritant in them."
The police source also said that Park Police did not know President Trump would be walking across the park several minutes later, and that they fired the smoke cannisters to disperse the crowd because officers were being pelted with objects.
Augenstein's full Twitter thread:
First on WTOP: U.S. Park Police is explaining its decision-making in clearing Lafayette Square, at least 20 minutes before DC's 7p curfew, on night 4 of protests. A source says tear gas was never used -- instead smoke cannisters were deployed, which don't have an uncomfortable irritant in them.
And, the source says Park Police didn't know President Trump would be walking across the park several minutes later. Park Police say the reason the crowd was disbursed [sic] with smoke cannisters is that at that moment, officers were being pelted with water bottles.
Another factor was that protesters had climbed on top of the structure at the north end of Lafayette Square that had been burned the day before.
Obviously, this is Park Police's side of the story. I'll be checking with @wtop reporters who were on the scene last night, to plug-in what they observed with what Park Police are telling me. Park Police will be releasing a statement later today.
Obviously folks in the White House will be asked today about the President's walk across Lafayette Square to St. John's Episcopal Church. But, my Park Police source says the agency made its decision to use smoke cannisters at that moment because of what was being thrown at officers, not because President Trump planned to make an unannounced walk to the church.
Park Police will be releasing a statement later today. We will keep asking questions. In theory it's possible another agency used tear gas, in addition to Park Police using smoke cannisters, but my source was on the scene, got a dose of smoke, but didn't feel the irritants of tear gas. Clearly, the phrase "tear gas" has been used widely in the reporting and I'm continuing to try to learn who used what. Will keep you in the loop.
The story that Trump had authorities use tear gas on peaceful protesters has dominated mainstream media headlines in the past 12 hours.
? For instance, at publishing time, the New York Times was featuring the story with this headline at the top of their home page: "Protesters Dispersed With Tear Gas So Trump Could Pose at Church" and NPR was featuring the story at the top of their home page with this headline: "Peaceful Protesters Tear-Gassed To Clear Way For Trump Church Photo-Op."
➡️ Go Further: Follow Disrn's full coverage of the protests and riots here.