Minutes before Donald Trump began a chest-thumping address in the Rose Garden Monday evening, federal law enforcement officers started aggressively clearing out peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House.
Clearing a path so Trump could subsequently walk to a photo op, horseback mounted federal police and national guardsmen wielding military police shields pushed protesters off H Street, unleashing flash bangs, tear gas, and rubber bullets on them. MSNBC journalist Garrett Haake described the surreal scene minutes after it took place and said the protesters were entirely peaceful.
“I want to be super clear,” Haake said, “nothing happened on the side of the protesters. … It was by far the most peaceful day of protest that we have had in D.C. since this started on Friday night.”
As he was listening to Trump in his ear feed talk about law and order, Haake said, “I was watching people fall down as they ran. I was watching people get pushed aside by police forces and by national guardsmen carrying military police shields.” Haake noted the clearing began about 15 minutes before the district’s official 7:00 PM curfew.
“I’m a little shook by the whole thing to be completely honest with you,” he added.
The chaotic scene started to play out on TV cameras just before Trump stepped to the Rose Garden mic to threaten military action if governors couldn’t bring protests under control, blame the anarchist group antifa for nationwide unrest without offering a shred of evidence, and promise to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Trump was effectively threatening to invoke the Insurrection Act while giving a wink and a nod to right-wing militias that he had their backs.
Bottom line: after a week of gut-wrenching protests across the country, Trump used his first address to the nation since George Floyd’s death to escalate tensions.
Trump then left the White House to walk to a photo op at the historic St. John’s Church, which had been damaged by protests on Sunday night. Trump raised the Bible above his head at St. John’s moments after he declared himself the “president of law and order.”
Here’s some CNN footage of the mayhem. As CNN host Don Lemon noted, “Open your eyes American. We are teetering on a dictatorship.”
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