Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is requesting a special prosecutor to investigate Attorney General William Barr’s role and other top White House officials in the use of force by U.S. Park Police (USPP) to break up a protest on Monday before the president’s walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“The use of these measures for such a contemptuous purpose would be reason for condemnation on its own. However, the Washington Post reported yesterday that you yourself were responsible for this reprehensible display,” Cicilline, the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee chairman, wrote in a letter to Barr on Wednesday, June 3.
“Given the issues at stake, and your evident role in suppressing the right of the American people to redress their grievances, it is clear that a special prosecutor must be appointed to investigate your actions and the actions of all executive branch officials involved in this action,” he added.
The mainstream media erupted after Barr toured Lafayette Square on Monday evening, claiming that Barr had personally ordered D.C. police to clear the peaceful crowd by using tear gas, horses, and riot shields.
The USPP pushed back the claims, saying, “No tear gas was used” and that the demonstrations at Lafayette Park and across the National Mall in response to George Floyd’s death were not peaceful, which resulted in injuries to 51 USPP officers in the line of duty, the destruction of public property, and monuments.
“At approximately 6:33 pm, violent protesters on H Street NW began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles, and caustic liquids,” the USPP said in a statement. “The protesters also climbed onto a historic building at the north end of Lafayette Park that was destroyed by arson days prior. Intelligence had revealed calls for violence against the police, and officers found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats, and metal poles hidden along the street.”
The USPP noted that it had “issued three warnings over a loudspeaker to alert demonstrators on H Street to evacuate the area.” Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) earlier in the day also announced a 7 p.m. curfew and sent alerts directly to smartphones across the district ahead of time.
“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,” it added.