Protesters Dispersed With Tear Gas So Trump Could Pose at Church

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WASHINGTON — Individuals who gathered exterior the White Home to protest police brutality spent Monday waving indicators and screaming for justice. They watched as law enforcement officials and Nationwide Guard items flooded Lafayette Sq., delivering on a risk made by President Trump. And simply earlier than town’s 7 p.m. curfew went into impact, they had been hit with flash-bang explosions and doused with tear fuel.

It was as a result of the president, who spent a part of the weekend in a safe bunker as protests roiled, wished to have his image taken holding a Bible at a battered church simply past the gates.

That church, St. John’s — the so-called Church of the Presidents as a result of each one since James Madison has attended — had been briefly set ablaze because the protests devolved on Sunday night. After Mr. Trump’s aides spent a lot of Monday expressing outrage over the burning of a spot of worship, Hope Hicks, a presidential adviser, finally hatched a plan with others on the White Home to have the president stroll over to the constructing, in accordance with an official accustomed to the occasions.

As Mr. Trump delivered a speech within the Rose Backyard vowing to ship the army to states the place governors couldn’t carry rioting underneath management however calling himself “an ally of all peaceable protesters,” the sound of explosions and the yells of demonstrators could possibly be heard. After receiving repeated warnings to disperse earlier than town’s curfew, the group was tear-gassed.

Mr. Trump started his stroll to the church at 7:01 p.m. for a photograph session that lasted about 17 minutes. On his method over, after protesters had been pushed from the park, he was trailed by a bunch of aides, together with Lawyer Normal William P. Barr. Mr. Barr had strolled to the sting of the police line to watch the group within the minutes earlier than the tear-gassing started.

He walked alongside Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Ivanka Trump, his eldest daughter and senior adviser. Ms. Trump was sporting a masks, one of many few seen reminders on Monday that the administration was in the course of battling a public well being disaster. Kayleigh McEnany, the White Home press secretary, Ms. Hicks and Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of workers, had been additionally among the many cadre of aides.

As police sirens blared within the background, Mr. Trump, his lips set in a skinny line, stood together with his again to the boarded-up, graffiti-laden facade of the buttermilk yellow church.

He cradled a Bible, bouncing it in his arms as if testing its weight.

“Is that your Bible?” a reporter yelled.

“It’s a Bible,” Mr. Trump responded, and hoisted up the guide so reporters might see.

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, who watched the scene unfold whereas away from the church visiting together with her mom, mentioned church officers weren’t informed of the plan and expressed outrage on the White Home’s use of riot-control ways on a usually peaceable crowd to clear a path for the president.

“He didn’t pray,” the bishop, Mariann E. Budde, mentioned in an interview. Referring to the loss of life of the black man in police custody that set off the protests, she added: “He didn’t point out George Floyd, he didn’t point out the agony of people that have been subjected to this type of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for lots of of years. We’d like a president who can unify and heal. He has performed the other of that, and we’re left to choose up the items.”

In Lafayette Sq., one of many visiting clergymen attending to St. John’s was sprayed with tear fuel as she tried to assist scared demonstrators go away the realm, mentioned Bishop Budde, who was not on the church when Mr. Trump visited.

Bishop Budde denounced the way in which the president held up a Bible throughout his go to, a transfer she interpreted as a political prop.

“The Bible will not be an American doc,” she mentioned. “It’s not an expression of our nation. It’s an expression of the human battle to serve and love and know God.”

The president has been an rare customer to St. John’s, however attended a church service there on the day of his inauguration. Since his election, the church has been dragged into the backdrop of a few of Mr. Trump’s most partisan fights. Final spring, Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who led the investigation surrounding the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian interference in the 2016 election, drew a gawking crowd outside St. John’s before his report was released.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York.

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