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Protesters Tear Gassed Outside Church  06/02 06:46

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- It began with Attorney General Bill Barr standing with 
his hands casually in his pockets, not wearing a tie, surveying the scene at 
Lafayette Park across from the White House, where several thousand protesters 
had gathered for more demonstrations after the police killing of George Floyd.

   President Donald Trump had announced he would soon be addressing the nation 
from the White House Rose Garden, as a 7 p.m. curfew in the city loomed and a 
mass of law enforcement, including U.S. Secret Service agents, Park Police and 
National Guardsmen, stood sentry, many dressed in riot gear.

   Moments before 6:30 p.m., just when Trump said he would begin his address, 
the officers suddenly marched forward, directly confronting the protesters as 
many held up their hands, saying, "Don't shoot."

   Soon, law enforcement officers were aggressively forcing the protesters 
back, firing tear gas and deploying flash bangs into the crowd to disperse them 
from the park for seemingly no reason. It was a jarring scene as police in the 
nation's capital forcefully cleared young men and women gathered legally in a 
public park on a sunny evening, all of it on live television.

   With smoke still wafting and isolated tussles continuing in the crowd, Trump 
emerged in the Rose Garden for a dramatic split-screen of his own creation.

   "I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful 
protesters," he declared, before demanding that governors across the nation 
deploy the National Guard "in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets." 
And he warned that, if they refused, he would deploy the United States military 
"and quickly solve the problem for them."

   As an additional show of force, Trump announced he was deploying even more 
of the military to Washington, D.C., giving it the feel of an armed, 
locked-down city after days of violent clashes, arson and looting.

   "As we speak I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed 
soldiers," he said, as explosions rang out in the background. "We are putting 
everybody on warning."

   Then, before departing, Trump announced he wasn't done for the evening, and 
would be "going to pay my respects to a very very special place."

   Moments later, the White House press pool was quickly summoned for a 
surprise movement. And soon after, Trump strolled out of the White House gates 
 something he had never done before  and walked across the park that had 
just been cleared to accommodate his movements.

   Trump walked slowly, followed by an entourage of his most senior aides, 
security and reporters. The faint residue of pepper spray hung in the air, 
stinging eyes and prompting coughing.

   Sections of the park and surrounding sidewalks were strewn with garbage, 
including plastic water bottles and other debris. Some sections had been 
scrawled with graffiti.

   Trump crossed H Street and walked toward St. John's Church, the landmark 
pale yellow building where every president, including Trump, has prayed. It had 
been damaged Sunday night in a protest fire.

   Trump, standing alone in front of cameras, then raised a black-covered Bible 
for reporters to see.

   "We have a great country," Trump said. "Greatest country in the world."

   He didn't talk about Floyd, the church or the damage it had suffered, or the 
peaceful protesters police had cleared. He said nothing about the coronavirus 
pandemic, the parallel crisis that has continued to ravage the nation as Trump 
campaigns for a second presidential term. And then he invited his attorney 
general, national security adviser, chief of staff, press secretary and defense 
secretary  all white  to join him for another round of photos before he 
walked back across the park to the White House.

   At one point, he stopped and pumped his fist in the air at National Guard 
members in the distance.

   "We're going to keep it nice and safe," he said.

   Rabbi Jack Moline, the president of Interfaith Alliance, slammed the fact 
that peaceful protesters near the White House were gassed and shot with rubber 
bullets so Trump could hold his photo op.

   "Seeing President Trump stand in front of St. John's Episcopal Church while 
holding a Bible in response to calls for racial justice  right after using 
military force to clear peaceful protesters out of the area  is one of the 
most flagrant misuses of religion I have ever seen," Moline said in a 
statement. This only underscores the president's complete lack of compassion 
for Black Americans and the lethal consequences of racism."

   And the Right Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of 
Washington, to which St. John's belongs, said she was "outraged" by the moment 
and noted that Trump didn't pray during his visit.

   "He took the symbols sacred to our tradition and stood in front of a house 
of prayer in full expectation that would be a celebratory moment," Budde told 
The Associated Press. "There was nothing I could do but speak out against that."

 
 
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