Monday Hillary Clinton tweeted that “tear gas” was used against protesters.
The United States Park Police is now clarifying that they did NOT use tear gas on protesters.
Hillary tweeted monday:
Tonight the President of the United States used the American military to shoot peaceful protestors with rubber bullets & tear gas them.
For a photo op.
This is a horrifying use of presidential power against our own citizens, & has no place anywhere, let alone in America. Vote.
WashingtonExaminer reports United States Park Police denied using tear gas on protesters near the White House on Monday.
News reports and protesters said law enforcement used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators in Lafayette Park ahead of the city’s 7 p.m. curfew, after which President Trump walked from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church to pose for photos with a Bible.
Nearly 24 hours after protesters were moved using force, Park Police acting Chief Gregory Monahan issued a statement saying no law enforcement agencies used tear gas.
“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. Subsequently, the fence was installed,” he said.
Monahan said the measures were used because protesters were throwing bricks and water bottles, and Park Police had issued three warnings over loudspeakers telling demonstrators to leave the area.
“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,” he said.
Reporters on the scene had a different recollection, saying Monday that protesters had been peaceful before police took action.
At least 51 members of Park Police were injured during the last four days of protests, according to Monahan.
“The USPP will always support peaceful assembly but cannot tolerate violence to citizens or officers or damage to our nation’s resources that we are entrusted to protect,” he said.
Largely peaceful protests have escalated into the vandalism of businesses and other property across the country as demonstrators demand justice over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis after a white officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd pleaded for his life. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been fired and charged with killing Floyd.
The U.S. Park Police on Friday hedged its earlier claims it did not use tear gas to clear crowds near the White House Monday, telling Vox earlier statements were a “mistake” given that the chemical agents they used cause similar eye and lung irritation.
A Tuesday statement from Park Police said it used “smoke canisters and pepper balls” to clear “violent” protests in the area, counter to multiple reports that peaceful demonstrators were met with tear gas.
“I’m not going to say that pepper balls don’t irritate you,” Park Police spokesman Sgt. Eduardo Delgado told Vox, noting they contain an irritant derived from pepper plants. “I’m not saying it’s not a tear gas, but I’m just saying we use a pepper ball that shoots a powder.”
The original Park Police statement ignited a semantic battle over chemical agents amid a broader discussion over whether the use of force was necessary as protestors demonstrated in Lafayette Square following George Floyd’s death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes pepper spray and pepper balls under the category of a “riot control agent,” something it defines as “chemical compounds that temporarily make people unable to function by causing irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin.”
“The point is we admitted to using what we used,” Delgado said.
“I think the term ‘tear gas’ doesn’t even matter anymore. It was a mistake on our part for using ‘tear gas’ because we just assumed people would think CS or CN,” he said, using abbreviations for other forms of tear gas.
An updated statement on the Park Police website posted Wednesday still claims that “officers and other assisting law enforcement partners did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park.”
Reached for comment, the Park Police pointed The Hill to a new statement issued Friday, which reiterated its earlier claims.
“USPP officers and other assisting law enforcement partners did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park on Monday, June 1,” the agency said.
Park Police did not respond to questions about Skat Shells that local CBS News reporters found at the scene.