With the constant sound of helicopter blades overhead and a steady succession of bangs from nearby Lafayette Park, Trump declared himself an “ally of all peaceful protesters.”
But as he was speaking, peaceful protesters were being urgently dispersed outside the White House gates by police using rubber bullets, tear gas and flash bangs. Several protesters were seen pouring water into their eyes to ease the gas’s sting.
Later, Trump walked across the park to St. John’s Episcopal Church, a house of worship used by American presidents for more than a century that was partially burned in a Sunday evening protest.
“We have the greatest country in the world,” Trump said in front of the church, holding a Bible and surrounded by aides, including national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Attorney General Bill Barr, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief of staff Mark Meadows, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
He remained at the boarded-up building for a matter of minutes before returning inside the White House.
Trump engaged peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash bangs so he could walk across the street for a three minute photo op. The video on CNN of him speaking about being an “alley of peaceful protesters” while next to him a live feed of police attacking protestors who are sitting and kneeling is remarkable.
What the president doesn’t seem to know or care is that the vast majority of those protesting, they too are calling for law and order. A black man killed with four officers holding him down, a knee to the neck, for more than 8 minutes, nearly three minutes of which he was no longer conscious for, that’s not law and order. That’s murder. Stopping and frisking a young black man simply because he’s a young black man. That’s not law and order. The killing of George Floyd, Eric Garner, the torture of Abner Louima, that’s not law and order. The president seems to think that dominating black people, dominating peaceful protestors, is law and order. It’s not. He calls them thugs. Who’s the thug here?
Later, Cooper talked to the Bishop of Trump’s church photo op, Bishop Mariann Edgar Buddy, who said via the phone on CNN:
The president just used a bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for. And to do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard. I am outraged. The president did not pray when he came to St. John’s, nor did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now, and in particular that of the people of color in our nation, who wonder if anyone in public power will ever acknowledge their sacred worth and who are rightfully demanding an end to four hundred years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.
I wonder who’s bible he was holding.
Update: Here's the headline from the Washington Post: "Police gas, force out peaceful protesters so Trump can pose for photos at a church".