For over a year now, one fact has been repeated in literally thousands of messages: Former Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the eviction of Lafayette Park on the 1st in front of St John’s Church. From the outset there has been ample reason to question the assertion made in the media. As I noted in my testimony to Congress about the protests earlier this month, the operation was clearly a response to days of violent and destructive protests. Now the Inspector General has completed his investigation and the report debunks conspiracy theory that the area in Lafayette Square was evacuated to make way for Trump’s photo op.
While many still claim today that the protests were “completely peaceful” and that there was no “attack on the White House,” this claim is proven to be false. It’s only plausible if you look at the level of violence at the start of the eviction versus the 48 hours before. Indeed, an unusually large number of officers were injured in the protests. In addition to the reports, 150 officers were injured (including at least 49 park police officers around the White House) and protesters caused extensive property damage, including setting fire to a historic building and attempting to set fire to St. John’s. The threat was so great that Trump had to be moved to the bunker because the Secret Service feared a security breach around the White House.
Extending the perimeter with the fence was a logical and necessary step. It is the same decision (and indeed the same fences) by Congress when it responded to the January 6 riots of this year. Without such a fence, an extremely dangerous situation could have arisen in which a serious violation of the White House borders would have triggered the use of deadly force with the potential for high loss of life.
In the days following the protests, ample evidence emerged to support the testimony of Barr and others that the plan to evacuate the park area was proposed days before a plan for a photo opportunity. There was never any evidence Barr knew about the photo-op plan before approving the operation. Still, media and legal experts continued to claim as a fact that all of this was done for the photo op. Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas and a CNN staffer, went on to claim Barr ordered federal officials to “forcibly evict protesters in Lafayette Park in order to get a photo op for Trump.” In a still uncorrected segment on the Internet, NPR declares “Peaceful demonstrators with tear gas to clear the way for Trump Church Photo-Op”.
Democratic leaders like spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi echoed the conspiracy theory over the photo op, and the Washington Post ran an article by Philip Bump entitled “Attorney General Bill Barr’s Dishonest Defense of Clearing of Lafayette Square.” Not only was the Post referring to the “debunked claim” that the federal government did not use tear gas, but continues incredibly:
“It is the job of the media to tell the truth. The truth is that Barr’s arguments about last Monday’s events collapse under scrutiny, and that his mere assertion that there was no connection between the eviction of the square and Trump’s photo op should be treated with the same skepticism as his claims about the Bring in use of tear gas. “
Both claims turned out to be true.
The Inspector General of the Interior Ministry conducted an investigation last year and the Biden administration has just released the results. The IG states in no uncertain terms that there is no evidence to support the allegation that Barr or others ordered the eviction for the photo op. The report goes on to conclude that “the USPP had the authority and discretion to evacuate Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1st.” Additionally, “the USPP cleared the park so that the contractor could safely install the lime protection fence in response to property destruction and injury to officials on May 30 and 31.” It was not done “to allow the President to assess the damage and go to St. John’s Church ”.
That’s not the only drop in near-universal media accounts. The federal government has long denied using “tear gas” in its operation, as opposed to pepper balls, during the evacuation on June 6th. The difference has no real meaning either legally or in practice. However, critics clung to the denial to show Barr and others are lying. The IG stated that “the USPP incident commander did not approve CS gas for this operation. Expecting that CS gas would not be used, most USPP officials did not wear gas masks. “
The IG found no evidence of a permit or the use of tear gas by the federal company. However, it confirmed, “and the MPD confirmed that the MPD used CS gas on 17th Street on June 1st
discussed above, the MPD was neither part of nor under their control or direction and PP
the uniform command structure of the Secret Service. “
Both claims turned out to be true.
In fact, the district admitted last week that it used tear gas about a block away in enforcing Mayor Muriel Bowser’s curfew. The admission was breathtaking in itself, as the media raved about Bowser for her stance against the surgery and, in particular, the use of tear gas. For a year, the county knew he was using tear gas and said nothing to the public when Bowser basked in the media – and Barr was attacked as a liar.
Now, on the anniversary of the operation, the Bowser administration is asking the court to dismiss Black Lives Matter’s lawsuit. Her lawyers argue that the use of tear gas was appropriate and that the evacuation of the area was appropriate. This is the same major who received national recognition for painting “Black Lives Matter” on the street next to the park and renaming it “Black Lives Matter Plaza”.
The Biden administration also joins efforts to dismiss the BLM case. The court said: “The safety of the president is a primary government concern that weighs heavily on the balance sheet of the Fourth Amendment.” DOJ attorney John Martin added that “Federal officials do not violate the rights of the First Amendment by they move protesters a few blocks away, even if the protesters are mostly peaceful ”.
The media has largely ignored the district’s approval and change of position on the legitimacy of law enforcement. Additionally, none of the media has corrected their previous reports reporting that Barr ordered the clearing to allow the photo ops, let alone apologize to Barr.
In echo journalism today, it is doubtful whether this plays a role. The myth of the photo opportunity fueled anger and fueled reviews. It is questionable whether the same media and legal experts now acknowledge that they have promoted a conspiracy theory without concrete support.
The IG report can say more about our media culture than the clearing process itself. As with the effective media blackout on the Hunter Biden story and the pre-election Chinese laboratory leak theory, the media were actively shaping the news to accommodate them fit into a narrative. It worked. Biden was elected and the public still believes these false reports. For many Democrats, Bill Barr will remain the man who violently crushed protesters for a photo op. As the old media saying goes, it was (and remains) “a fact too good to be verified”.