Virginia county pulls officers from DC after Trump photo-op

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — A county in Northern Virginia pulled its officers out of the District of Columbia Monday night after they played a supporting role in clearing protesters from a park outside the White House so the president could walk to a church for a photo opportunity.

The Arlington County Board issued a statement Monday night saying its officers were used “for a purpose not worthy of our mutual aid obligations.”

Arlington officers joined a team of federal law enforcers using chemical agents and flash bangs to forcibly remove a large group of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park.

That cleared a path for President Donald Trump, who had just issued a statement from the Rose Garden vowing to crack down on protesters, to walk from the White House over to St. John’s Church, which had been damaged in earlier protests. Trump then posed with a Bible for a few minutes.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said on Twitter she’s “appalled” that the mutual aid agreement was abused “for a photo op.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, for her part, said Tuesday that the District of Columbia never put out a call for mutual aid.

“I might suggest their officers shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Bowser added.

In a phone interview, Garvey said the aid request came from U.S. Park Police, and that the agencies have provided aid to each other routinely over the years. She said Arlington Police were helping in the District Saturday and Sunday without incident.

What was unacceptable Monday, she said, was using officers to facilitate “a press op.”

In Richmond, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he rejected a federal government request to send the Virginia National Guard to the District in part because the troops were not requested by Bowser and because he didn’t believe in the mission.

“I am not going to send our men and women in uniform of a very proud National Guard to Washington for a photo op,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.

United States Park Police Acting Chief Gregory Monahan said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that officers used smoke canisters and pepper balls to quell protesters, but did not use tear gas as was widely reported.

While most reports described protesters as largely peaceful, Monahan said Park Police responded to clear the park only after protesters threw “bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids” at police. He also said “officers found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats and metal poles hidden along the street.”

He said Park Police made no arrests and “will always support peaceful assembly but cannot tolerate violence to citizens or officers or damage to our nation’s resources that we are entrusted to protect.”

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Arlington County said its officers “did not unholster their batons or fire rubber bullets or tear gas at the protesters” during the Lafayette Park event. “They used their presence to push protesters back. After the initial push back, our officers were replaced and returned to the staging area.”

Lafayette Park is under federal control, and as such provided the Trump administration an opportunity to demonstrate the aggressive moves Trump said should be taken to deal with demonstrations nationwide that have veered from peaceful to violent.

But Bowser expressed criticism at her news conference of the use of force to clear protesters under such circumstances.

“I didn’t see any provocation … especially for the purpose of moving the president across the street.” she said.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said the city was not informed of the presidential movement until right before it happened. Newsham said his officers were not involved in moving the protesters out of Trump’s way.

Members of northern Virginia’s congressional delegation were also critical of the tactics. Democrat Gerry Connolly wrote a letter to the Secret Service on Tuesday asking for documents to explain their decision-making process. And Democrat Don Beyer, whose district includes Arlington County, called Trump’s response to the protesters “naked authoritarianism.”

“Unleashing state violence against peaceful American demonstrators and journalists to create a photo op is a violation of the President’s oath to defend the Constitution and a betrayal of everything this country stands for,” Beyer said.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Members of the D.C. National Guard stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial monitoring demonstrators during a peaceful protest Tuesday. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Troops load up into personnel carriers to head into downtown D.C. along East Capitol Street near the Armory on Tuesday. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Mike DeAngelo got up on a lamppost and spoke to the crowd on Tuesday night. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

An aid station with milk, water and other items for protesters is set up on a corner just north of Lafayette Square. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd hold up placards near Lafayette park accross the White House on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. - Anti-racism protests have put several US cities under curfew to suppress rioting, following the death of George Floyd in police custody. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd hold up placards near Lafayette park accross the White House on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. – Anti-racism protests have put several US cities under curfew to suppress rioting, following the death of George Floyd in police custody. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, USA - JUNE 2: People hold banners during a protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer in Minneapolis, United States on June 2, 2020 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA – JUNE 2: People hold banners during a protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer in Minneapolis, United States on June 2, 2020 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Late Tuesday afternoon, protesters gathered at the newly installed fence around Lafayette Park.

Tuesday afternoon more protesters gathered north of Lafayette Park.

With the White House in the background, a line of police forms behind a fence in Lafayette Park as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers.

President Donald Trump visits Saint John Paul II National Shrine with first lady Melania Trump, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Washington.

A demonstrator sits in front of police as people gather to protest the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers.

People including Kevin Antlitz, an Anglican priest, left, take a knee during a protest of the visit of President Donald Trump to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Washington.

Sister Quincy Howard, center, a Dominican nun, protests the arrival of President Donald Trump to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Washington.

Signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Killing Black People” hang on an overpass on North Capitol Street in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, following days of continuing protests over the death of George Floyd.

People hold signs as President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump’s motorcade passes on their way to visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, to lay a ceremonial wreath and observe a moment of remembrance under the Statue of Saint John Paul II on June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

A man walks past a boarded up shop after the unrest from the past few nights in downtown D.C. on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

Troops load up into personnel carriers to take them toward the city from the Joint Force Headquarters of the D.C. National Guard on June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Protesters hold signs as President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump’s motorcade passes on their way to visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine to lay a ceremonial wreath and observe a moment of remembrance under the Statue of Saint John Paul II on June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

D.C. National Guard vehicles are staged in front of the Ronald Reagan Building as the city braces for more demonstrations and protests against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, on June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

A man holds a sign as he dresses as Abraham Lincoln during a protest near the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in response to the death of George Floyd while under police custody June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Demonstrators stage a protest near the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, where President Donald Trump planned a visit, in response to the death of George Floyd while under police custody June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Demonstrators stage a protest near the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, where President Donald Trump planned a visit, in response to the death of George Floyd while under police custody June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Demonstrators stage a protest near the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, where President Donald Trump planned a visit, in response to the death of George Floyd while under police custody June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Demonstrators stage a protest near the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in response to the death of George Floyd while under police custody as the motorcade of President Donald Trump leaves after his visit June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

A sign is seen as President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump’s motorcade passes on their way to visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine to lay a ceremonial wreath and observe a moment of remembrance under the Statue of Saint John Paul II on June 2, 2020 in Washington,D.C.

A Wells Fargo Bank near the White House is boarded up, after the unrest from the past few nights, in downtown D.C. on June 2, 2020.

A member of a D.C. government cleaning crew cleans a street near the White House in the morning hours on June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Secret Service agents arrest a man along Constitution Avenue near the White House in the morning as protests continue over the death of George Floyd in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers.

Ericka Ward-Audena, of Washington, puts her hand on her daughter Elle Ward-Audena, 7, as they take a knee in front of a police line during a protest of President Donald Trump’s visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Washington. “I wanted my daughter to see the protests, it’s really important. I’ve gotten a million questions from her because of it,” says Ward-Audena, “I think the most egregious statement was ‘when they start looting, we start shooting.’ That crossed a line for me.” Protests continue over the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers.

Workers carry large wood boards past the historical St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Park from the White House in the morning hours in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

Security forces block the road as protesters gather near Lafayette Park ahead of President Donald Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church in Washington, on June 2, 2020.

Security forces block the road as protesters gather near Lafayette Park ahead of President Donald Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church in Washington, June 2, 2020.

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Demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd hold up placards near Lafayette park accross the White House on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. - Anti-racism protests have put several US cities under curfew to suppress rioting, following the death of George Floyd in police custody. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - JUNE 2: People hold banners during a protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer in Minneapolis, United States on June 2, 2020 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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