Park Police Criticized for Use of Force During Protest Near White House
A political protester and an Australian television reporter led criticisms during a congressional hearing Monday against U.S. Park Police who aggressively cleared Lafayette Square park near the White House June 1.
Police forced Black Lives Matter protesters to back away from the area while President Donald Trump crossed the street to stand in front of a church for a photo opportunity.
Reporter Amelia Brace was broadcasting live to Australia when she was hit by what she called an unknown “projectile,” pushed and hit in the back with a police baton.
“As a reporter I have no interest in becoming the story but over recent weeks many of us have been left with no choice,” Brace told the House Natural Resources Committee.
Her cameraman was hit by the edge of a riot shield in the chest and stomach. The police officer who hit him also struck the front of his camera and grabbed the lens.
The incident was videotaped by bystanders and played for congressmen during the hearing.
“As Australian journalists, we are the eyes and the ears of our people,” Brace said. “In this case witnessing civil unrest in the capital of our most powerful and closest ally.”
The Australian audience who viewed the confrontation was “alarmed,” she said. The Australian ambassador called on the U.S. government for an investigation.
Kishon McDonald, an aircraft mechanic and Navy veteran, said a tear canister went off near him, forcing him and other protesters away.
“It is unacceptable to treat protesters that way,” McDonald said.
In addition to tear gas, police used pepper spray capsules, rubber bullets and flash bombs.
McDonald is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by protesters against the Park Police and government officials. They claim that police violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.
McDonald, an African American, said he joined the protest as a matter of pride.
“On June 1, I decided to join in the peaceful protest against racial injustice,” he told the congressional committee. The protest was prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
The Park Police said they announced three warnings over a loudspeaker to tell the protesters to disperse. They claim they were acting lawfully to remove a disruptive crowd after several officers were attacked.
McDonald and other protesters said they never heard any warnings. They are represented in their lawsuit by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia and the law firm of Arnold & Porter.
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee joined in criticisms of police and Trump.
“This president has repeatedly attacked the free press,” Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., said as he spoke with the Australian journalist.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said about Trump, “He made clear, this is a war, us against the protesters.”
The main Republican witness was Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor.
He said the law left little doubt that police were authorized to clear the park, which lies on federal land in a high-security zone. In addition, the protesters lacked a permit and dozens of police officers reported injuries in clashes with them.
“Those facts ordinarily give the government the discretion to order people from the federal property,” Turley said.
The lingering question is whether the police procedure was appropriate, he said.
“These facts, however, do not give the government carte blanche to clear the park in any manner that it desires,” Turley said.
He recommended further investigation to determine whether the police behavior followed legal restrictions on use of force.
In The News
WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland held a virtual discussion with a bipartisan group of election officials on Wednesday,... Read More
WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland held a virtual discussion with a bipartisan group of election officials on Wednesday, providing them with an update on the threats that have been investigated and addressed in the past several weeks. Among the updates, the Justice Department’s Election... Read More
LAREDO, Texas — Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, is entangled in an FBI investigation stemming from his ties to the Republic... Read More
LAREDO, Texas — Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, is entangled in an FBI investigation stemming from his ties to the Republic of Azerbaijan ahead of a tightly contested March 1 primary election. It is unclear at this time whether Cuellar and his wife are direct targets of... Read More
BOSTON — Massachusetts’ wiretap statute, adopted in 1968 as a tool to combat organized crime, is now woefully out of... Read More
BOSTON — Massachusetts’ wiretap statute, adopted in 1968 as a tool to combat organized crime, is now woefully out of date; it needs a major revision to better equip law enforcement for the realities of the 21st century, the state’s governor said on Friday. “As technology... Read More
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four inmates at... Read More
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four inmates at an Arkansas jail who were unknowingly administered ivermectin to treat their cases of COVID-19. The plaintiffs in the case allege they were misled about the drugs... Read More
WASHINGTON — The FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to faith-based organizations Monday warning them they remain... Read More
WASHINGTON — The FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to faith-based organizations Monday warning them they remain potential targets of violent extremists. The letter followed an extremist’s attack this weekend on a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. The gunman was killed by police who... Read More
FREDERICK, Md. — Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner announced legislation on Thursday that would create a police accountability board to... Read More
FREDERICK, Md. — Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner announced legislation on Thursday that would create a police accountability board to oversee the civilian complaint process in cases of misconduct. The legislation was drafted in compliance with the Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021 which requires... Read More