Protesters tear gassed so Donald Trump can have photos taken at church
2 June 2020, 09:30 | Updated: 2 June 2020, 12:16
Protesters were tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets so Donald Trump could have his picture taken outside a church holding a bible.
Black Lives Matter demonstrators had gathered in and around Lafayette Park, directly opposite the White House, last night to protest police brutality against black people.
But minutes before the President made an address to the country, police suddenly advanced on the crowd who responded by raising their arms over their heads and chanting "don't shoot".
Officers used police horses to further force crowds back, before launching tear gas at crowds who tried to run, and hitting some of those retreating with rubber bullets.
The tear gas was deployed around half an hour before the 7pm curfew in Washington DC came into force.
As Trump made a speech in the Rose Garden declaring he was an "ally of peaceful protesters" and calling himself a "law and order president", the explosions of what was happening outside the sanctuary of the White House could be clearly heard by those inside.
Here is what was happening outside the White House as President Trump was giving his Rose Garden address and saying he is an “ally of all peaceful protestors.” Peaceful protestors being tear gassed outside of the WH gates. I confirmed because I was teargassed along with them. pic.twitter.com/yg0wbSrIXn— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) June 1, 2020
This is the tear gas Trump had deployed on nonviolent protestors in Lafayette Park so that he could walk across the street to St. John's Church and awkwardly fondle a bible for a photo op. (via @ellievhall) pic.twitter.com/W14cCcRbaz— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) June 1, 2020
The reason for the sudden advancement on protesters was not made immediately clear at the time, but reports soon emerged that Trump wanted a photo opportunity at St. John's Church just a short walk away from the White House gates.
The church had been set on fire the night before when protests descended into violence.
He then strode across the park - which only minutes before had been filled with protesters - and along graffiti strewn streets, which many people had scrawled "f**k Trump" across the walls.
Eventually reaching the church, Trump pulled out a bible that was inscribed with "God is Love" and stood for a few minutes to get the pictures before once again walking back through the park.
US media has reported Trump decided to make the journey after being dubbed "Bunker Boy" on social media, following the news he had hid inside a bunker underneath the White House on Sunday as thousands gathered outside.
But the Bishop of the church has said she was "outraged" by what Trump had done.
The Right Rev Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington told CNN: “Let me be clear, 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.
"We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others. And I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen."
The US has now been embroiled in country-wide protests and riots for the past seven days, following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on his neck, has since been charged with third-degree murder, while the three other officers who were part of the arrest have not been arrested.
Trump has been accused of repeatedly fanning the flames of the racial tensions in the US, with Twitter even censoring one of his tweets as it "glorified violence".
The White House has become the focal point of tensions in Washington DC, and in a Twitter rant on Saturday, Trump threatened protesters with "vicious dogs" and "ominous weapons".
He also said that the Secret Service had put the "young ones" on the frontline, because they "love it and its good practice".