One of the most horrifically iconic pictures from the entirety of the Trump administration is that of Trump standing in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church holding a Bible. Of course, Trump would have been in the White House basement if Lafayette Square had not first been cleared with aggressive action by “police” wearing unidentifiable uniforms. Clearly, smoke was seen at the time, but questions have always lingered regarding whether the federal government cleared a peaceful protest with tear gas, to take a picture that would establish Trump as dominant. Now, NPR believes it has a route to finally determining whether the government put peaceful people at risk through the use of tear gas, all for one picture.
From Law and Crime:
National Public Radio (NPR) filed a federal lawsuit in California Wednesday against the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Army National Guard, and the U.S. Park Police for allegedly wrongfully withholding information about police behavior during 2020 protests following George Floyd’s death.
Reporters on the scene said law enforcement used tear gas to subdue protesters — a claim that was later corroborated by an attorney for Washington D.C.’s local police.
By contrast, a spokesperson for the Park Police, said officers had not used tear gas. On June 1, then-President Donald Trump posed for a widely-criticized photo standing in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church while holding a Bible aloft.
With respect to lingering questions regarding the Trump administration and its abuses, whether tear gas was used or not is not among the most pressing.
And yet it is pressing anyway precisely because the moment and the picture will go down as a stain on the country. At no point was Trump ever more “visually” fascist than violently clearing a plaza of people exercising their First Amendment right, then walking out with the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Attorney General, to then, Mussolini-like, holds a Bible in his hand in front of a church, another violation of the First Amendment. When one also remembers pictures of the Australian reporter beaten while covering the violence, the entirety of the event presents an unapologetic evisceration of the very first Amendment.
So it is critical to record the history correctly and whether tear gas was used. Three reasons come readily to mind. First, answering the question would help to identify the police force present, given one would need to know who ordered who to do what. The lack of insignias or identification of the “stormtrooper-like” force merely added to the fascist feel. Second, it would establish the degree of risk Trump was willing to impose upon the protesters to get his strongman picture. Finally, it will clear up whether someone ordered someone to lie about whether tear gas was used.
The NPR suit should be followed closely. History is always watching, but certain details require a microscope to fill in the details of the horrifically iconic picture.