An official with the U.S. Park Police said Friday that the agency had made a ‘mistake’ when it denied using tear gas to help clear Lafayette Park for President Trump’s infamous photo-op – prompting an immediate turnaround from the agency and a slap from the White House.
The dueling statements from within the same agency were just the latest mixed message regarding the photo-op – where White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said flat out this week that ‘no one was tear-gassed. Let me make that clear.’
Park Service public information officer Sgt. Eduardo Delgado acknowledged confusion, after media reports the powder-based pepper spray is described as a form of tear gas by the Centers for Disease Control, even if it isn’t technically a gas.
In this June 1, 2020, file photo a line of police move demonstrators away from St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House, as they gather to protest the death of George Floyd in Washington. ‘United States Park Police officers and other assisting law enforcement partners did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park in response to violent protestors,’ acting chief Gregory Monahan said
‘The point is we admitted to using what we used,’ Delgado told Vox in an interview. ‘I think the term ‘tear gas’ doesn’t even matter anymore. It was a mistake on our part for using ‘tear gas’ because we just assumed people would think CS or CN,’ Delgado said.
CS refers to artificial tear gas. All are used as riot control agents. CS and CN are manufactured in a laboratory. Pepper spray is derived from compounds in naturally occurring peppers but still cause eye irrigation.
‘I’m not going to say that pepper balls don’t irritate you,’ Delgado said. ‘I’m not saying it’s not a tear gas, but I’m just saying we use a pepper ball that shoots a powder.’
Acting Park Police chief Chief Gregory Monahan – whose name was on the original Tuesday statement from the agency – then came out with a statement seeking to walk back that clarification.
‘Reiterating his previous statement regarding the actions taken over the weekend to protect life and property at Lafayette Park, the United States Park Police acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan issued the following statement today,’ according to the new statement.
The action to clear Lafayette Park came minutes before a Donald Trump photo-op
In this June 1, 2020, file photo police clear the area around Lafayette Park and the White House as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers
US Marshals are restraining a protestor near the White House on June 1, 2020 as demonstrations against George Floyd’s death continue
Demonstrators, who had gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, as police clear the street near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers
Trump posed with a bible in front of St. John’s church Monday
‘United States Park Police officers and other assisting law enforcement partners did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park in response to violent protestors,’ he said.
Skat shells are a combination shell that contain CS, CN, and smoke.
The White House immediately touted that statement, and called the Vox report ‘FALSE!’ White House spokesman Judd Deere gave it that label in a tweet Friday.
Mankew’s initial Tuesday statement came after multiple media accounts of tear gas being used. WUSA, the local CBS affiliate in Washington, picked up up multiple shell casings at the seen. The canisters were labeled ‘SPEDE-HEAT CS, ‘CS,’ and ‘SKAT SHELL OC.’ Other agencies also have denied using tear gas.
‘At approximately 6:33 pm, violent protestors on H Street NW began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids,’ Monahan said said in the Tuesday statement.
‘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,’ he said.
An initial Park Police statement acknowledged the use of pepper balls but said Park Police and others ‘did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells’
The White House called a report with the initial clarification ‘FALSE!’
‘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,’ the Tuesday statement said.
‘No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park,’ he said.
The park police said officers had used ‘smoke canisters and pepper balls’ – which contain a naturally occurring eye irritant.
National Guard members at the scene were pictured wearing gas masks shortly before the action to clear the area occurred – just minutes before the president began his Rose Garden remarks.