Attorney General William Barr personally ordered for the perimeter near the White House to be extended, pushing protesters away from Lafayette Park, across from the White House, shortly before President Trump spoke in the area on Monday night, The Washington Post reported.
Two federal law enforcement officials told the Post that Barr and other officials made the decision late Sunday or early Monday to extend the perimeter around Lafayette Square by one block.
Barr found the perimeter had not yet been extended Monday afternoon and ordered law enforcement officials to complete the extension, according to The Post.
The plaza between St. John’s Church and Lafayette Park was full of people nonviolently protesting police brutality late Monday afternoon when U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops, with the use of tear gas, flash bangs, horses and riot shields, suddenly started pushing them away for no apparent reason.
Protesters were seen being pushed into the pavement with riot shields and an Australian news crew was seen beaten by batons as they reported live.
The operation was carried out shortly before the city’s 7 p.m. curfew.
“He conferred with them to check on the status and basically said: ‘This needs to be done. Get it done,’” a Justice Department official told the newspaper.
The official told The Post that the attorney general had “assumed that any resistance from the protesters of being moved would be met with typical crowd-control measures,” and that Barr had been told a bottle had been thrown in his direction.
“This plan was happening, regardless of any plans of the president,” the official said.
Shortly after the park was cleared, Trump was seen walking from the White House through the park to the Episcopal church.
Camera crews scrambled to keep up with him as he strode through the park, followed by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, along with Attorney General William Barr and other administration officials.
Trump stopped briefly outside the church and held up a Bible.
“We have the greatest country in the world,” he said. “Keep it nice and safe.”