On June 1, US President Donald Trump was seen holding a Bible, standing in front of Ashburton House, the parish house of the St John’s Episcopal Church, in what is being seen as his most embarrassing photo-op till date.
Trump walked to the spot, a short distance from the White House, accompanied by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, after a path was cleared by the federal police reportedly using excessive force against protesters who had been gathering at Lafayette Square over the last few days in wake of the murder of George Floyd.
Interestingly, Trump neither entered the church nor was seen offering any form of prayers, leading many to wonder if he was using the holy book as just a prop and it was all a public relations stunt. Turns out Trump did not manage to impress religious leaders as he had hoped.
In fact, the American Bible Society also issued a statement that appeared to slam Trump without actually naming him. The statement said, “In this time of pandemic fear and social isolation, in this time of racial injustice and senseless violence, in this time of economic uncertainty and generational pain, we should be careful not to use the Bible as a political symbol, one more prop in a noisy news cycle.”
Twitterati wasted no time in calling him out.
Some even alleged that he had held it upside down, a claim that turned out to be false.
Others just mercilessly trolled the president!
But while the photo-op itself was rather strange, to say the least, what preceded it, has scarred America more. For the last few days, protesters had been gathering at the Lafayette Square near the White House protesting the brutal murder of George Floyd, by a Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin who pressed his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes causing him to stop breathing and die.
While the protests in DC, especially the area near the White House had till then remained peaceful by-and-large, sporadic incidents of dumpster-fires and arson had been reported, especially on the night of May 31 when a portion of Ashburton House itself had been burnt down, allegedly by violent protesters. What followed on June 1, was first a speech by Trump asking the police to “dominate the streets”.
Trump said, “I have recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.” He added, “If a city of state refuses to take the action necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States Military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
Later that day, federal police, including members of the US Park Police (USPP) allegedly used excessive force including tear gas shells to disperse protesters from the spot. Mayor Muriel Bowser herself called out the violence against protesters in a tweet.
However, the USPP deny this. In a statement, USPP acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan said, “On Monday, June 1, the USPP worked with the United States Secret Service to have temporary fencing installed inside Lafayette Park. At approximately 6:33 pm, violent protestors on H Street NW began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids. The protestors also climbed onto a historic building at the north end of Lafayette Park that was destroyed by arson days prior. 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.”
The statement went on to say, “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. USPP officers and other assisting law enforcement partners did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park. Subsequently, the fence was installed.” However, this claim by the USPP has been contested by many people, including journalists present at the spot.
However, this claim by the USPP has been contested by many people, including journalists present at the spot. Australian news reporter Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers were assaulted by security personnel while covering the incident live for Sunrise on 7, a popular breakfast news show.
The shocking incident prompted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to demand an investigation.