Park Police chief insists tear gas wasn't used despite reports
The head of the U.S. Park Police (USPP) on Tuesday said police used pepper balls to move crowds demonstrating near the White House on Monday night, and took issue with reports that tear gas was used.
Acting USPP Chief Gregory Monahan said in a statement that smoke canisters and pepper balls were used to combat “violent” protesters.
“As many of the protestors became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, and attempted to grab officers’ weapons, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls,” Monahan said.
“No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park,” he said.
The National Guard and other police also took part in clearing the space on Monday.
A number of reporters took issue with the assertion that tear gas was not used.
A pepper ball is a projectile that includes a chemical that irritates the eyes.
Reporters on the scene of the Monday night protest from The Hill and other news organizations reported seeing projectiles thrown by police, and experienced and interviewed people who experienced eye irritation.
A number of reporters also pushed back at Monahan's description of the protests.
CNN’s Alexander Marquardt said protesters did not throw bricks or caustic liquids.
After the space was cleared, President Trump walked through the park and was photographed in front of the nearby St. John’s Church.
Trump was criticized over the actions taken against the protesters, including from some Republicans.
The USPP is overseen by the National Park Service, which is part of the Interior Department.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who chairs the House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, And Public Lands, pledged to “demand answers about what happened” in a statement to The Hill.
“The use of force against peaceful protesters so that President Trump could have a photo-op was absolutely unnecessary and an appalling abuse of power,” she said.
Haaland and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) on Tuesday also requested a briefing on the incident from Park Police.