Justin Trudeau pauses for 21 seconds after protesters were tear gassed for Donald Trump's photo op

3 June 2020, 07:43 | Updated: 3 June 2020, 07:46

By Kate Buck

Justin Trudeau took 21 seconds to formulate a response when asked about peaceful protesters being tear gassed so Donald Trump could have a photo opportunity at a church.

On Monday, the US President said he was an "ally of peaceful protesters" during a public statement at the White House, as peaceful demonstrators were being shot with rubber bullets and doused in tear gas just outside the buildings gates.

Trump then walked across Lafayette Park to St John's Chuch, which had been set on fire the night before, to have his picture taken with a bible.

The Canadian Prime Minister said his citizens were watching their southern neighbour with "horror and consternation" at the protests and riots which have been raging for over a week now.

Mr Trudeau has long been careful not to criticise his counterpart as Canada relies on the US for 75% of exports.

But he paused and struggled to come up with the right words when asked about Mr Trump calling for military action against protesters and the use of tear gas for a photo opportunity.

The prime minister avoided mentioning Mr Trump directly.

Justin Trudeau was lost for words when asked about Donald Trump's use of tear gas on protesters
Justin Trudeau was lost for words when asked about Donald Trump's use of tear gas on protesters. Picture: PA

Mr Trudeau said: "We all watch in horror and consternation at what is going on the United States."

"It is time to pull people together."

The protesters had gathered following the killing of black man George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis a week earlier, with similar protests continuing around the US.

Trump has since been criticised for the decision to hold the photo opportunity, after protesters had been peacefully gathering in Lafayette Park for most of the day.

The bishop of the church, the Right Rev Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, said she was "outraged" by what he had done.

A number of Republican senators have also broken ranks to criticise the President for the pictures, potentially indicating a growing level on unease at Trump's actions.

Peaceful protesters were tear gassed so Donald Trump could take this picture
Peaceful protesters were tear gassed so Donald Trump could take this picture. Picture: PA

It has since emerged his Attorney General William Barr personally ordered the perimeter was around the White House be expanded to include the space around the Church, although he denies this was for the photo shoot.

US media 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.

Trump has repeatedly been accused of fanning the flames of the violence in the US, after first threatening "when the looting starts the shooting starts", and then threatening to deploy US troops on the streets in any state which fails to quell the unrest.

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