WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Almost two months after U.S. Park Police used batons and tear gas to drive protestors out of Lafayette Park near the White House, a high-ranking member of the D.C. National Guard said the way that police acted was “deeply disturbing.”
However, the man in charge of the park police said officers did what they had to.
Major Adam DeMarco of the D.C. National Guard said he still can’t believe what he saw in Lafayette Park on June 1.
“It was my observation that the use of force against demonstrators and the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation,” DeMarco said.
But Acting Chief of the U.S. Park Police, Gregory Monahan, said violent protestors forced his agency to act.
“Fifty U.S. Park Police were injured between May 29 and June 1,” Monahan said.
California Democratic Rep. T.J. Cox said Tuesday’s hearing was about more than just a violent end to a single protest.
“It’s whether or not that the Park Police and yourself really have a duty and an obligation and a fealty to the Constitution,” Cox said.
But Republicans like Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman called the hearing a political show.
“I wish that Congress could work on renewing hope in America, rather than continuing to drag issues like this through the mud,” Westerman said.
Lawmakers also wanted to know if the park was cleared specifically so President Donald Trump could walk through the park for a photoshoot at a nearby church.
“There is 100 percent zero correlation between our operation and the president’s visit to the church,” Monahan said.
The Justice Department denies that officers used tear gas on protestors.
DeMarco said he knows tear gas.
“But I could feel irritation in my eyes and nose based off my previous exposure to tear gas in training,” DeMarco said.
Several lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. Park Police and the DOJ over what happened at Lafayette Park.