A photo opportunity of Donald Trump with a Bible at a church was not the reason to end a demonstration in Washington against racism by violence last June. This concludes the US Department of Interior in an investigation into the issue. Trump got a lot of criticism because the demonstration would have ended so he could walk from the White House to the church, but according to the report, that was not the case.
The report says that the police decided that the protesters had to leave because a security fence had to be installed. That surgery was planned for a long time. However, the report criticises the way in which the demonstration has been dissolved. Warnings to leave the premises were not loud enough, so not all protesters were able to learn about it in time. Whether excessive police violence has been used is the subject of a separate investigation. Police put in tear gas and rubber bullets.
The protesters protested in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Trump repeatedly showed his displeasure over the Black Lives Matter-demonstrations across America and blames the protesters for kicking and looting. After a speech in the White House Rose Garden, in which Trump announced his intention to tackle protesters harder, he went to the nearby St. John‘s Church for the notorious photo opportunity. The rioters had set fire in the basement of the church not long before.
Trump walked to the church from the White House through Lafayette Park, eleven minutes after the last protests were gone. As a result, many people had the impression that Trump had evacuated the park in order to walk to the church. According to the report, there is no question of this. The police had been several hours before Trump’s plans had begun to evacuate the park. Minister of Justice William Barr, according to the report, urged the evacuation of the park to be speeded up, but the police would not have responded to that.
During his walk, Trump was accompanied by Barr and General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces. Milley later said that was a mistake: “My presence there gave the impression that the armed forces are involved in domestic politics.”
Milley walked next to Trump, but apologized in a video: