During a briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta about the protesters near the White House being dispersed prior to the president’s visit to St. John’s Church.
“You mentioned Dr. King, and he likely would not have approved of what took place Monday evening across from the White House, as you probably know,” Acosta began. “If the White House, [the] president, and his team had to do it all over again, would you have gassed and pummeled protesters to clear the park so the president could have a photo op?”
Right off the bat, McEnany stated that “no tear gas was used, and no rubber bullets were used.”
When Acosta insisted that “chemical agents were used,” McEnany reiterated that tear gas and rubber bullets were not used. Acosta probed as to why the press secretary was differentiating between “chemical agents,” as it was reported that pepper balls were used.
McEnany then went over a timeline of events “because there’s been a lot of misreporting,” stating that Attorney General William Barr had earlier come to the conclusion that the perimeter had to be expanded, but that the task had yet to be accomplished by later in the day.
The press secretary continued:
The protesters were told three times over loudspeaker that they needed to move, and what happened was it grew increasingly unruly. There were projectiles being thrown at officers – frozen water bottles were being thrown at officers, various other projectiles, and the officers had no other choice than in that moment to act and make sure that they were safe and that the perimeter was pushed back because, as we all know, a church was burning in that very area the night before … but it’s absolutely uncalled for to throw bricks, absolutely uncalled for to throw water bottles that are frozen at police officers.
Acosta then asked McEnany if she agreed that “the vast majority of those protesters were doing so peacefully, and that many of them did not hear those warnings and were simply just pushed out of the way, just forced out, pummeled out of the way by their fellow Americans, police officers.”
“You sent in members of the military to deal with this,” Acosta continued. “I mean, what do you say to Americans who look at what happened on Monday and find that to be appalling?”
McEnany pushed back, saying that the National Guard was used, not the military.
After repeating that it’s unacceptable for protesters to hurl objects at police officers, McEnany also noted that there was “intelligence that there were calls for violence against police officers, and they found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats, and metal poles hidden along the streets.”
“When an officer is at risk, they have the right to defend themselves,” McEnany stated. “They did so peaceably. No one had – there were no fatalities, no severe injuries.”
Acosta pressed McEnany, which led to the press secretary speaking about instances of officers being injured or killed.
“Police officers are out on the front lines. They’re defending and protecting you as you come into this building each and every day, Jim,” McEnany concluded. “We owe them honor; we owe them respect; and when they are under attack, they have the ability to defend themselves.”
On Tuesday, United States Park Police acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan released a statement regarding the agents that were used to disperse the protesters.
The statement reads in part:
At approximately 6:33 pm [on Monday], violent protestors on H Street NW began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids. The protestors 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.
To curtail the violence that was underway, the USPP, following established policy, issued three warnings over a loudspeaker to alert demonstrators on H Street to evacuate the area. Horse mounted patrol, Civil Disturbance Units and additional personnel were used to clear the area. As many of the protestors 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.
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