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Commentary

DC Police Department Finally Admits Role in Big Scandal One Year After Media Pinned Blame for It on Trump

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Attorneys representing the Muriel Bowser administration’s police force in Washington, D.C., made what should be a stunning admission in federal court last week.

According to a report from WUSA-TV, a leading source of local news for the District of Columbia, “An attorney for DC Police said in court, for the first time, that the department did indeed use tear gas on protesters around Lafayette Square Park last June.”

“The curfew, violence of past nights, chaos created by federal defendants, discharge of tear gas in that direction was not unreasonable,” lawyer Richard Sobiecki said.

This admission is noteworthy because the Metropolitan Police Department, under the ultimate command of Mayor Bowser, has maintained that it was not involved in the clearing of protesters by federal law enforcement last year before then-President Donald Trump posed for a now-famous photo at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

As many Americans will recall, in late May 2020, several days after George Floyd had been killed in Minneapolis, a group of militants closed in on the White House, stormed through barriers and threw bottles, rocks and fireworks at Secret Service agents, dozens of whom were injured.

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Trump was briefly forced to take shelter in a White House bunker for safety.

On June 1, law enforcement cleared a pathway down Lafayette Square in D.C. and Trump walked through, eventually posing for a photo with a Bible in hand at the church.

The optics of crowd dispersion were admittedly ugly, as the not-so-peaceful protesters had resumed their projectile-hurling from the nights prior and were met with tear gas and pepper balls.

The establishment media and its Democratic political allies decided that Trump wanted the photo-op to restore his tough-in-the-face-of-chaos image after having been called “Bunker Boy” on social media. In a speech delivered at the Rose Garden beforehand, Trump said it was “to pay my respects to a very, very special place.”

Media outlets suggested that then-Attorney General William Barr ordered federal officials to clear the streets for Trump, thus violating the right of Americans to peaceably assemble. Barr, for his part, maintained it was necessary to secure a perimeter outside the White House, also telling The Associated Press that he wasn’t actually the person who gave the tactical order for the protesters to be cleared.

Notably, Bowser picked up the media’s line of reasoning, telling Americans that “if you are like me, you saw something that you hoped you would never see in the United States of America.”

She took no responsibility for the actions of local police, but rather criticized the feds for allegedly employing tear gas on peaceful protesters and painted “Black Lives Matter” on the street.

With Bowser criticizing supposed federal government overreach, protesters filed suit against the U.S. federal government, alleging that their civil rights had been violated.

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But as we learned recently, key parts of the story are nonsense, according to Bowser herself, effectively.

The question before a federal judge is whether law enforcement cleared Lafayette Square so Trump could take a picture, as Bowser and the media argued, or to secure the perimeter outside the White House, as the Trump administration maintained.

As George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote at The Hill this week, “Now, one year later, Bowser is keeping the BLM plaza but opposing the BLM protesters. Her administration insisted in court that the protesters were legitimately teargassed by the metropolitan police to enforce her curfew that night.”

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He continued: “Now, with Trump out of the White House, Bowser’s administration insists there was nothing unreasonable in the use of tear gas to enforce a curfew and is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit by protesters, including Black Lives Matter DC. The media that spent the past year denouncing the Trump administration over its alleged use of tear gas seems largely silent as Bowser’s administration claims its own use of force was reasonable.”

Now, it’s worth noting that the MPD still denies being “involved in the movement of the President from Lafayette Square to St. John’s church.”

“On June 1, 2020, a number of individuals in the area of 17th and H Streets NW began throwing multiple objects at Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers,” MPD Deputy Director of Communications Kristen Metzger said in a statement to WUSA this week.” This included an incendiary device attack that seriously burned and scarred the limb of an MPD officer. In response to these assaultive actions, MPD deployed crowd control tools that included tear gas in an effort to stop the riotous behavior and protect both officers and others in the area. As was stated previously, MPD was not involved in the movement of the President from Lafayette Square to St. John’s church on June 1, 2020.”

But that’s semantics. The MPD still admits that it teargassed protesters who were in the area, even if it claims it wasn’t specifically involved in getting Trump to the church. The MPD can try to distance itself from this controversy all it wants, but like it or not, Bowser’s police force has admitted it played a big role in the chaos of the day — chaos that the media, and Bowser, tried to blame solely on Trump and his administration.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration, according to Turley, has apparently flipped its position too.

Despite Biden having previously mirrored the media coverage, his administration now “agrees that the case should be dismissed entirely,” Turley noted.

“The Department of Justice (DOJ) maintains that ‘Presidential security is a paramount government interest that weighs heavily in the Fourth Amendment balance.’ The DOJ’s counsel, John Martin, added that ‘federal officers do not violate First Amendment rights by moving protesters a few blocks, even if the protesters are predominantly peaceful.’”

After an entire year of lying, why are D.C. police and Democrats only now effectively admitting that the Trump administration didn’t viciously teargas peaceful protesters for a photo-op?

For one thing, we now have a Democratic president instead of a Republican president.

Trump campaigned as the law-and-order candidate, but the problem was the media never reported on the lack of it. When law enforcement used nonlethal force, the media told Americans it was unconstitutional and excessive to make the incumbent appear incompetent and chaotic.

Now Trump is out and Biden is in.

It also doesn’t serve Bowser or the Biden administration to rehash controversies manufactured to undermine Trump last year, especially in court and with untruths key to their story.

Biden may not have been in charge at the time, but a legal fight now would detract from his FDR-style political ambitions.

In all likelihood, federal law enforcement was trying to protect the White House perimeter and the president — which was their job. Trump being Trump — and having been embarrassed publicly — he wanted to capitalize on an opportunity to restore his strongman persona.

Many things can be true at the same time.

Trump did something unnecessary for political gain on the back of federal law enforcement taking reasonable and necessary action to secure the area, which was the chief reason for that action. D.C. officials under Bowser’s command assisted Barr in performing his lawful duty and then essentially lied about it.

This could have been cleared up a year ago. It never even should have become a narrative in the first place.

But to own up to it would be politically damaging to Bowser and her fellow Democrats. Instead, they will stand by their behavior and let the establishment media cover for them, which it is happy to continue doing.

At least on this front, it seems that Trump has been cleared of wrongdoing amid controversy (though not of political opportunism), another one of those “defining moments of the Trump presidency” that the media hangs its hat on.

If these sorts of admissions continue to come out, the door will be opened again for Trump moving forward.

His political opponents will have only themselves to blame.

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Kevin Catapano graduated from the University of Connecticut in May 2021 with a bachelor's of arts in political science. While studying, he was a weekly columnist for the student newspaper and a staff writer for the UConn Undergraduate Political Review.
Kevin Catapano graduated from the University of Connecticut in May 2021 with a bachelor's of arts in political science. While studying, he was a weekly columnist for the student newspaper and a staff writer for the UConn Undergraduate Political Review.




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