One of the most troubling aspects of the past four years has been the deliberate effort to rewrite history in the media to fit a narrative, either by denying facts or repeating clearly false statements. The recent stories of the uprising in Congress are a good example. Most of us denounced Trump’s speech (as it was delivered) and, of course, the riot itself. However, some have noted that violent protests have been going on for years, including the one in Lafayette Square. The fact that there have been violent protests by the left does nothing of the shameful attack on Congress. However, there appears to be one controlling narrative that must be maintained at all costs – portraying past protests by left groups as peaceful, to heighten criticism of the recent violence in Congress. Ironically, even a site called Media Matters published an article calling the Lafayette protest not only peaceful, but also a long discredited claim about the controversial Trump photo op. I testified in Congress about the operation of Lafayette Park, and the revisionism related to the controversy is alarming.
The protests in Lafayette Park lasted for several days, and the eviction was ordered based on a decision made before the last day to set up a greater perimeter to protect the White House complex and the immediate vicinity – as was the same perimeter fence last was used week on Capitol Hill. I believe the operation was abusive because of the use of force and, as discussed below, the police line charges. They could have cleared the area without this power in my judgment, as I discussed in my testimony.
Bobby Lewis’ Media Matters article illustrates a number of such pieces of media. It was brought to my attention by a reader based on a reference to an interview I did this week:
Jonathan Turley, a Fox employee, compared the attack on the Capitol to the incident in Lafayette Park, a June 2020 protest against Black Lives Matter, which he mistakenly labeled an “attack on the White House.” What actually happened was federal security forces who gassed protesters and the media in tears without warning or serious provocation in order to forcibly clear the way for a Trump photo op in front of a church whose leaders did not want him there. “
Other places have described the protests in Lafayette Park as “peaceful”. A side called Quartz said the protests were “completely peaceful” and complained that there was no “attack on the White House”.
That’s just not true. Quartz was open about how it interpreted the protest as peaceful, referring only to the last day. While this claim is being challenged by law enforcement officials who showed that objects had been thrown at the police, it simply ignored that the order to evacuate the area was due to previous violence over the past two days.
As discussed in my testimony, an exceptionally high number of officials were injured in the protests around the White House complex. Around 150 officers were injured in the protests, half of them in the White House. The Justice Department claimed 750 officers injured during the various protests. It is clear that dozens of officers have been injured and there are videotapes of officers being hit by frozen bottles, bricks and other missiles. For two days the violence continued with the burning of a historic building, extensive property damage and the attempted burning of the historic St. John’s Church. The attacks around the complex were so great that the president was taken to the bunker and officials said they were concerned that the complex could be injured.
Nor is it true that the area was cleared “to forcibly clear a path for a Trump photo op”. A multitude of witnesses and documents explained how the plan to evacuate the area was put into action 24 hours before the actual operation – and long before a photo op was discussed. Park police wanted to expand the perimeter to protect the White House, and the plan was approved by then Attorney General Bill Barr. It was delayed because officers were waiting for both fence material and support staff. When the staff and the fence arrived, they continued the operation. Barr repeatedly denied knowing Trump’s request for a photo opportunity that came long after the plan was approved.
At the hearing, I testified that I believe that unlawful measures were taken during the operation. The police’s final charge seemed unjustified, as did an attack on a media crew. I also criticized the level of violence used and suggested a series of inquiries that Congress should undertake into these areas of possible illegality.
However, the tapes and videotapes show that there was high levels of violence and destruction in Lafayette Park. Indeed, there are analogies to the situation in the Capitol. As with the Capitol, National Guard personnel were deployed after the violence. Indeed, there was violence in Lafayette Park for two days prior to the use and evacuation of the area. In both situations, a fence was added to protect an extended perimeter.
It’s not about defending any of the law enforcement measures. In fact, I was very critical of the evacuation of Lafayette Park due to the excessive violence of the park police. However, it is simply not true that the protests in Lafayette Park were peaceful, as evidenced by the high number of law enforcement injuries and extensive property damage. There was even some violence on the day the area was evacuated. When the park was cleared, however, there was not the violence of the previous days. Therefore the strength level was too high. Reports of a “peaceful” protest intentionally omit the violence that led to the plan to expand the perimeter. The eviction of the park should not address the immediate violence in the park. Clearance of the park was granted earlier to protect the complex. There had been considerable violence and destruction, but there was no such violence at the time the park was cleared. This is exactly what happened in Lafayette Square.
I do not understand why such facts cannot be discovered and I am still criticizing measures taken in both operations. Indeed, you can make it clear that efforts to stop a constitutional act in Congress pose a far greater threat to our system. However, there is no need to revise the facts to highlight these points. In fact, they are more convincing when presented openly and honestly. We cannot reach consensus as a nation if we demand answers based on diametrically opposed facts. There is clarity – and a truth – in these incidents, but it will take people in good faith to accomplish this important goal.