Debunking The Photo Op Myth: Inspector General Investigation Refutes Media Account On The Clearing Of Lafayette Park
Thursday June 10, 2021
For over a year, there has been one fact that has been repeated in literally thousands of news stories: former Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the clearing of Lafayette Park on June 1, 2020 to allow former President Donald Trump to hold his controversial photo op in front of St. John’s Church. From the outset, there was ample reason to question the claim echoed across media outlets. As I noted in my testimony to Congress on the protest that month, the operation was clearly a response to days of violent and destructive protests. Now the Inspector General has completed its investigation and the report debunks the conspiracy theory that the Lafayette Square area was cleared to make way for the Trump photo op.
While many today still claim that the protests were “entirely peaceful” and there was no “attack on the White House,” that claim is demonstrably false. It is only plausible if one looks at the level of violence at the start of the clearing operation as opposed to the prior 48 hours. There was in fact an exceptionally high number of officers were injured during the protests. In addition to a reported 150 officers were injured (including at least 49 Park Police officers around the White House), protesters caused extensive property damage including the torching of a historic structure and the attempted arson of St. John’s. The threat was so great that Trump had to be moved into the bunker because the Secret Service feared a breach of security around the White House.
The expansion of the perimeter with the fencing was a logical and necessary move. It is the same decision reached (and indeed the same fencing) by Congress when it responded to January 6 riot this year. Absent such fencing, an extremely dangerous situation could have arisen where a major breach of the White House perimeter would have triggered the use of lethal force with the potential of a major loss of life.