On Friday, a U.S. Park Police spokesperson walked back the agency's claim that officers did not use tear gas on Monday evening to disperse a crowd across the street from the White House, Vox reported.
"It was a mistake on our part for using 'tear gas' because we just assumed people would think CS or CN," Sgt. Eduardo Delgado said. "It was kind of a fault on our part just not saying in the first place 'we did not use CN or CS, we used smoke and pepper balls,' and that would've made it a moot point," he added.
However, hours later, around 4 p.m. ET, Park Police officials reversed course, issuing a new statement once again denying officers had used tear gas on the crowd.
"United States Park Police officers and other assisting law enforcement partners did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park in response to violent protestors," they said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has itself described a variety of chemical agents as "tear gas," including those mentioned in the Park Police's earlier statement.
"Riot control agents (sometimes referred to as 'tear gas') are chemical compounds that temporarily make people unable to function by causing irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin," a CDC fact sheet reads.
Both pepper balls and pepper spray, which were used by the Park Police against peaceful protesters on Monday, were included in the CDC list of riot control agents.
The confusion follows an earlier Park Police statement on Tuesday, in which it claimed its officers "did not use tear gas" on Monday night. Later that day, the Trump campaign demanded media outlets retract articles stating that tear gas was used.
"It's said that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on. This tear gas lie is proof of that," Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump's 2020 campaign, said. "For nearly an entire day, the whole of the press corps frantically reported the 'news' of a tear gas attack on 'peaceful' protestors in Lafayette Park, with no evidence to support such claims."
The following day, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany made the same false claim as the Park Police, telling reporters, "No tear gas was used, and no rubber bullets were used."
On Monday, protesters were gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, as part of nationwide protests against racist police violence sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died following a white police officer kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Shortly before 7 p.m., federal law enforcement officers used tear gas to forcibly clear the protesters, including clergy, away from the area so that Trump could walk through the area to pose in front of a nearby church with a Bible.
After the attack on peaceful protesters, the Trump administration gave conflicting reasons for clearing out the protesters, according to the Washington Post, including claiming that some protesters threw objects at officers. CNN reporters on the scene did not witness any objects thrown at officers.
Trump later said he did not know protesters were in the park.
"When I said, 'Go to the church,' I didn't know protesters or not," Trump said, adding, "Nobody tells me that."
The Post reported that Attorney General Bill Barr gave the order to clear the park of protesters shortly before Trump walked from the White House to the church.
This article was updated to include additional statements from the Park Police regarding its use of chemical compounds against peaceful protesters.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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