Sunday 2 June 2024

Fact Check: Biden Campaign Repeats Lie That Trump Tear-Gassed Protesters to Clear Park for Bible Photo-Op


President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John's Church, June 1, 2020,
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

CLAIM: The Biden campaign is repeating a lie that former President Donald Trump tear-gassed peaceful protesters gathered outside of the White House in Lafayette Square for a photo-op.

VERDICT: FALSE. This has been debunked countless times and has been proven false. The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Interior released a report in June 2021 that exonerated Trump from claims that he had tear-gassed peaceful protesters gathered in Lafayette Square in June 2020 to walk through the park to have a photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The Biden campaign posted a video in a post on X on Saturday night, claiming that “four years ago,” on that date, “Trump tear gassed peaceful protesters outside the White House.”

The inspector general’s report confirmed Trump’s and former Attorney General William Barr’s version of what had happened that day.

Protests began in and around Lafayette Park on May 29, 2020. On May 30, the USPP [U.S. Park Police] and U.S. Secret Service established a unified command to coordinate the law enforcement response to the protests. From May 30 to 31, at least 49 USPP officers were injured while policing the protests, and Federal and private property was vandalized.

On the morning of June 1, the Secret Service procured antiscale fencing to establish a more secure perimeter around Lafayette Park that was to be delivered and installed that same day. The USPP, in coordination with the Secret Service, determined that it was necessary to clear protesters from the area in and around the park to enable the contractor’s employees to safely install the fence. The USPP planned to implement the operation as soon as the fencing materials and sufficient law enforcement officers arrived at the park. Six other law enforcement agencies assisted the USPP and the Secret Service in the operation to clear and secure areas near the park.

The operation began at 6:23 p.m. and was completed by 6:50 p.m. Shorty thereafter, at 7:01 p.m., President Trump walked from the White House through Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church. At 7:30 p.m., the contractor began assembling and installing the antiscale fence and completed the work by approximately 12:30 a.m. on June 2.

“We did not obtain evidence suggesting that the USPP cleared Lafayette Park so the President could visit St. John’s Church,” the report continues.

The report from the inspector general also found that tear gas had been used by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, under Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser. Bowser has defended using tear gas on protesters in order to clear the crowd.

The Associated Press

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks during a news conference in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow pointed out in his book, Breaking the News: Exposing the Establishment Media’s Hidden Deals and Secret Corruption, that Trump’s walk from the White House through Lafayette Square to St. John’s Episcopal Church became a “brief obsession” for the news media.

Marlow added in his book that the “Democrat Media Complex, as they so often do, wildly exaggerated the law enforcement response, stating that they had used tear gas on peaceful protesters.” Marlow wrote:

On June 1, 2020, President Trump took a short walk from the White House across Lafayette Square to the church, which also became a brief media obsession. In order to clear a path for the president and a select few members of his administration, the police took relatively extreme measures to disperse a group of protesters so that POTUS and his coterie could pass. (Lafayette Square is a common location for political protesters and gatherings and has become a main rallying point for Black Lives Matter activism in D.C. A few days later, Mayor Muriel Bowser would create a Black Lives Matter Plaza just north of the square.) The Democrat Media Complex, as they so often do, wildly exaggerated the law enforcement response, stating that they had used tear gas on peaceful protesters. Jake Tapper’s CNN show featured a chyron at the bottom of the screen that said “Peaceful Protesters Tear Gassed for Trump Church Photo-Op.”

Some other examples of how the events were described by prominent media and Democrat figures:

Elizabeth Warren: “The President of the United States tear-gassed peaceful protestors.”

Joe Biden: “He’s using the American military against the American people.”

Hillary Clinton: “Tonight the President of the United States used the American military to shoot peaceful protestors with rubber bullets & tear gas them.”

CNN’s Oliver Darcy: “…[P]eaceful protesters just had rubber bullets and teargas shot at them so the President could have that photo op.”

Podcast host and Obama bro Jon Favreau: “The President had peaceful protesters shot with tear gas and rubber bullets so he could get his picture taken.”

Kamala Harris: “Donald Trump just tear-gassed peaceful protesters for a photo-op.”

The USPP issued a statement explaining that “no tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners,” and stated:

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. No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park.

As Marlow explained in his book, “not one of” the statements from people such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Joe Biden, who had claimed Trump had used tear gas on protesters, “was retracted,” even after the “Park Police said they deployed canisters, not tear gas.”

Breitbart News has also previously reported that the protests at Lafayette Square were not peaceful, as the media has claimed. A reporter for Breitbart News, and other reporters, were assaulted by the crowd of protesters.

Despite these findings, Democrats and the media have continued to repeat this debunked claim over and over, as Breitbart News has reported. 

In July 2020, Biden, the then-presumptive Democrat presidential candidate, had falselyclaimed Trump had held the Bible upside down.

The Democratic National Convention claimed in August 2020 that Trump had used tear gas on peaceful protesters “across from the White House.” Bowser, who was being introduced as the speaker, repeated this false claim and failed to mention that St. John’s Episcopal Church had been burned and damaged from a fire the night before.

During a debate in September 2020, Biden claimed that Trump had cleared “peaceful protesters” gathered in Lafayette Square to walk through for a photo-op.

Most recently, Biden questioned what Trump “would have done if black Americans had stormed the Capitol” on January 6, 2021.

Biden then referenced the debunked tear-gas claim, telling the audience that “this is the same guy who wanted to tear gas you as you peacefully protested George Floyd’s murder.”

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