‘It’s just absurd’: Priest at the Lafayette Square protest speaks out about internal report on violence used

An Episcopal priest at the Lafayette Square protest a little over a year ago is speaking out against an internal report released on the violence used to clear the area.

The Rev. Gini Gerbasi, rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown, was there during it all.

“I find it not remotely credible … absurd,” Gerbasi said about the violence used on demonstrators.

An internal government investigation revealed that the decision to forcibly clear protesters was not influenced by former President Donald Trump’s plan to stage a photo opportunity and was instead so that a contractor could get started installing new fencing.

She spoke out on Twitter after the report was released to share her experience.

A half-hour after the protesters were forced from the area with pepper pellets and flash-bangs, Trump walked across Lafayette Park amid the lingering scent of pepper spray and delivered a short speech while holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Church.

“To try to distract us and tell us we didn’t experience what we experienced is part of a culture of disregard for the truth and glorifying violence,” Gerbasi said. “This was not a vibe of, ‘hey folks, we’re putting in a fence.'”

I’m one of the people who went to Lafayette Square last June in support of #BLM, & was driven away by riot police with teargas, & flash grenades. I saw the report finding no link between the clearing of the park & the photo op. Initially I was not going to respond…

— The Rev. Gini Gerbasi (@GiniGerbasi) June 11, 2021

She said she felt compelled to tell her story because she was there in person and experienced the horror of the violence on June 1 of last year.

“I’d rather be somebody trying to speak the truth and, and try to do it, even though it’s really uncomfortable than to be silent.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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