An Army National Guard major is calling out President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr for lying when they said forceful actions by the U.S Park police against peaceful American citizens were not taken so Trump could pose with a Bible at St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House.
It was a photo op Trump needed to bolster his tough guy image after he was outed for heading to the White House underground bunker when Black Lives Matter demonstrations came near the White House.
Major Adam DeMarco, an Iraq veteran, is to testify Tuesday before the House Natural Resources Committee, which is investigating the government's actions in clearing Lafayette Square from those demonstrators the evening of June 1.
Police moved in on horseback, wielding clubs and tear gas to push the crowd back, depriving those demonstrators of exercising their constitutionally-protected right to free speech. The action came just before Trump walked from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church, where he posed for the cameras holding a Bible.
In his prepared testimony posted on the committee's website, DeMarco blows to smithereens claims by Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr that federal law enforcement personnel did not speed up clearing the park so the president could have a nice, peaceful stroll to the church for his photo op.
Here are key portions of his testimony without edits:
"At around 6:20 pm, after the Attorney General and General Milley departed Lafayette Square, the Park Police issued the first of three warning announcements to the demonstrators, directing them to disperse. I did not expect the announcements so early, as the curfew was not due to go into effect until 7:00 pm, 40 minutes later.
"The warnings were conveyed using a megaphone near the statue of President Jackson, approximately 50 yards from the demonstrators. From where I was standing, approximately 20 yards from the demonstrators, the announcements were barely audible and I saw no indication that the demonstrators were cognizant of the warnings to disperse.
"At approximately 6:30 pm, the Park Police began the clearing operation, led by Civil Disturbance Units and horse-mounted officers. The Secret Service, and other law enforcement agencies I was unable to identify, also participated in the push. No National Guard personnel participated in the push or engaged in any other use of force against the demonstrators.
"By then I had moved to the northeast corner of Lafayette Square near the statue of General Kosciuszko. As the clearing operation began, I heard explosions and saw smoke being used to disperse the protestors. The Park Police liaison officer told me that the explosions were “stage smoke,” and that no tear gas was being deployed against the demonstrators. But I could feel irritation in my eyes and nose, and based on my previous exposure to tear gas in my training at West Point and later in my Army training, I recognized that irritation as effects consistent with CS or “tear gas.” And later that evening, I found spent tear gas cannisters on the street nearby.
"During the initial push, I had relocated to a position near the northeast corner of Lafayette Square, next to the Comfort Station that had been burned the previous evening, in order to closely observe the clearing operation. As the horses began to move from east to west along H Street, they stopped in the vicinity of St. John’s Church and the Park Police’s Civil Disturbance Unit then took the lead and pushed the demonstrators further down H Street.
"From my vantage point, I saw demonstrators scattering and fleeing as the Civil Disturbance Unit charged toward them. I observed people fall to the ground as some Civil Disturbance Unit members used their shields offensively as weapons. As I walked behind the Civil Disturbance Units pushing westward on H Street, I also observed unidentified law enforcement personnel behind our National Guardsmen using “paintball-like” weapons to discharge what I later learned to be “pepper balls” into the crowd, as demonstrators continued to retreat.
"About ten minutes after the clearing operation began, the Park Police ordered the DC National Guard to move up behind the Park Police clearing elements pushing north on Vermont Avenue, 16th Street, and Connecticut Avenue to reinforce and relieve the Park Police on the newly established northern perimeter.
"I took up a position on 16th Street between St. John’s Church and the AFL-CIO building. By then, H Street had been cleared of demonstrators. Soon thereafter, several black sport utility vehicles pulled up at the intersection of 16th Street and H Street, and uniformed Secret Service officers began to establish an inner security cordon between the SUVs and our perimeter on I Street. At around 7:05 pm, I saw the President walking onto H Street from Lafayette Square, near St. John’s Church, accompanied by his security detail. The President’s arrival was a complete surprise, as we had not been briefed that he would enter our sector.
"As for the new security barrier, whose installation was the stated purpose of the clearing operation, the materials to erect it did not arrive on the scene until around 9:00 pm, and it was not completed until later that night.
Conclusion "Members of the Committee, the events I witnessed at Lafayette Square on the evening of June 1 were deeply disturbing to me, and to fellow National Guardsmen. Having served in a combat zone, and understanding how to assess threat environments, at no time did I feel threatened by the protestors or assess them to be violent. In addition, considering the principles of proportionality of force and the fundamental strategy of graduated responses specific to civil disturbance operations, it was my observation that the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force. From my observation, those demonstrators – our fellow American citizens -- were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.
"As the late Representative John Lewis said, "When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something.”
"The oath I swore as a military officer, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, is a bedrock guiding principle and, for me, constitutes an individual moral commitment and ethical instruction. It is the foundation of the trust safely placed in the Armed Forces by the American people. And it compels me to say something – and do something – about what I witnessed on June 1 at Lafayette Square."
Thank you, Major DeMarco, for having the courage to speak out and tell the truth. This is the only way America can be saved from this bully who occupies our White House and who has no qualms about using violence against American citizens for his own political purposes. You are a patriot.