Four House committee chairs fired off a letter Wednesday demanding the Justice Department, the Pentagon, the Interior Department and Homeland Security each answer for their personnel’s roles in clearing protesters from Lafayette Park on Monday, ahead of President Trump’s stroll to St. John’s Church.
The chairs said they “watched in horror” as officers pushed the protesters out of the park, saying it appeared to break with the First Amendment’s guarantee to peaceably assemble.
And they said they’ve seen news reports that Attorney General William P. Barr ordered the park to be cleared, which happened at around 6:30 — a half hour before the 7 p.m. curfew the city had imposed.
“We want to be clear: the use of federal personnel to prevent American citizens from exercising their Constitutional right to peaceably assemble represents a direct threat to our democracy,” wrote the chairs of the Armed Services, Homeland Security, Natural Resources and Judiciary Committees, which oversee the four departments believed to have played a role in the situation.
The lawmakers said the federal officers used tear gas, in addition pepper spray, smoke grenades and rubber bullets. In fact, according to the Park Police, which has chief oversight of Lafayette Park, no tear gas was used, though the PepperBalls used can have a similar effect.
The House chairs also said the protesters in the park were peaceful.
The Park Police says protesters scuffled with officers.
The House lawmakers demanded to know who gave the order to clear the protesters and what authority they cited; which agencies were involved; and what tactics were used.
They set a June 10 deadline for answers.
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