Testimony from national guard officer contradicts administration’s version of events
A US national guard officer is set to testify that the Trump administration’s forcible clearing of anti-racism protesters from outside the White House last month was “unprovoked” and an “excessive use of force”. The written testimony from the officer — who was at Lafayette Square on June 1 as a senior Washington national guard liaison — contradicts explanations given by Trump administration officials about the events, including denials that tear gas was used against the protesters. After the demonstrators had been dispersed that evening, Donald Trump walked through the area from the White House to a nearby church for a photo shoot where he held up a Bible. The officer, Adam DeMarco, is scheduled to appear before the House natural resources committee on Tuesday. In his written testimony, released on Monday, he described the demonstrators as “behaving peacefully, exercising their First Amendment rights”. “From my observation, those demonstrators — our fellow American citizens — were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force,” according to his prepared remarks. Mr Trump and his appointees have faced intense criticism over the events at Lafayette Square on June 1, which came as a wave of anti-racism protests were sweeping the US after the police killing of George Floyd.
The controversy about the Trump administration’s use of force against protests has continued throughout the summer, with nightly demonstrations at the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon. Federal forces from the Department of Homeland Security have been deployed to Portland to protect the courthouse.
Local officials have objected, arguing the federal presence is escalating rather than reducing tensions. William Barr, the US attorney-general, has vowed to “continue to confront mob violence”. He is set to appear before the House judiciary committee on Tuesday. Mr Barr has denied ordering federal forces to clear the protesters from around Lafayette Square on the evening of June 1. “My attitude was get it done, but I didn’t say, ‘Go do it’,” he told the Associated Press last month. He has said he gave the order to clear the area much earlier that day, well before there were any plans for Mr Trump’s photo.
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