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June 9th, 2021
Chair Grijalva, Senator Wyden: Interior Department Inspector General’s Review of Lafayette Square Crackdown Lacks Clarity, Leaves Unanswered Questions

Washington, D.C. – House Committee on Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today said the new Department of the Interior inspector general report on the violent crackdown against peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, lacks clear explanations for the key issues surrounding the event, including  how and why law enforcement officers were authorized to use violent tactics, and leaves unanswered questions that will have to be addressed through congressional oversight.

Among other shortcomings in the report, they noted that it fails to explain:

  • Why federal law enforcement agents used tear gas, batons and other weapons against peaceful protesters
  • Why federal law enforcement officials chose not to wait to clear the area until after the 7:00 p.m. curfew set by the District of Columbia, instead clearing the area when crowds were at their peak
  • Why a Bureau of Prisons riot control team was sent to attack protesters despite the fact that they posed no violent threat

“Americans are no longer satisfied with taking law enforcement’s word as the gospel truth when skepticism is warranted, and I come away from this report skeptical of the version presented here,” Grijalva said today. “The Lafayette Square crackdown was played on repeat on televisions around the world and raised serious questions about why heavily armed law enforcement attacked peaceful civilians practicing their constitutional rights. Not only does this report not answer those questions, it doesn’t even seem to acknowledge them. Our own investigation is ongoing, and we will continue to pursue answers to the questions this report didn’t satisfactorily address.”

“More than one year ago, Americans watched in horror as federal law enforcement dispatched by Donald Trump and his underlings brutally attacked peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park. While I appreciate the Inspector General’s efforts to investigate this matter, serious questions remain about why such violent tactics were used,” Wyden said. “Additionally, the report’s findings that the U.S. Park Police were unaware of Trump’s planned photo op are irrelevant, as it appears they were still used as political pawns by former Attorney General Bill Barr to clear the park quickly. Americans deserve more answers on why those peacefully exercising their constitutional right to protest were met with force.”

While some law enforcement agencies and Trump administration officials made vague references to the need for force based on unspecified intelligence of unruly demonstrator behavior, today’s report offers no new material evidence of violence, weapons, or other imminent threats on June 1 that would justify such a disproportionate and rushed response. Nor does the report closely examine incidents like the attack on unarmed Australian television reporter Amelia Brace and her cameraman, or what those incidents reveal about the orders that law enforcement agents were operating under that day.

Grijalva and Wyden said they will look closely at the DOI inspector general’s upcoming report on the use of force more broadly, with an expectation that it will go beyond law enforcement agencies’ internal accounts and justifications for alleged excessive uses of force.

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