Officer Challenges Trump Administration on Lafayette Park Clash

A National Guard officer is contradicting the Trump administration’s account of the confrontation last month that cleared a park near the White House, denying that demonstrators were violent or threatening.

Adam DeMarco, a West Point graduate and a major in the D.C. National Guard, says in prepared testimony for a House hearing on Tuesday that the use of force to clear Lafayette Square began sooner than he expected and included the use of tear gas and “pepper balls” fired by “paintball-like” weapons.

“The events I witnessed at Lafayette Square on the evening of June 1 were deeply disturbing to me, and to fellow National Guardsmen,” DeMarco said in written testimony released ahead of the hearing before the Natural Resources Committee. “Having served in a combat zone, and understanding how to assess threat environments, at no time did I feel threatened by the protesters or assess them to be violent.”

Attorney General William Barr -- who is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday -- has said that he was involved in the decision to extend a security perimeter around the White House. U.S. Park police have said they used pepper spray to disperse demonstrators after they allegedly threw bricks, water bottles and other items at officers guarding the park.

DeMarco called the clearing of the park “an unnecessary escalation of the use of force.”

DeMarco also said that the clearing began before a curfew and that he didn’t expect to see President Donald Trump, who arrived soon after the clearing of the crowd for a photo opportunity holding a Bible outside a church next to the park.

“The president’s arrival was a complete surprise, as we had not been briefed that he would enter our sector,” said DeMarco, who said he was deployed three times while on active duty, including to Iraq.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.