“An unprovoked escalation”
By Dan Friedman
Mother Jones (7/27/20)
A senior National Guard officer will tell Congress that the US Park Police engaged in “an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force” when the agency forcefully cleared peaceful protesters from in front of the White House ahead of President Donald Trump’s infamous June 1 photo op at a nearby church.
“At no time did I feel threatened by the protestors or assess them to be violent,” Adam DeMarco—a major in the Washington, DC, Guard, who was present during the operation to clear Lafayette Square—says in written testimony prepared for a House Natural Resources Committee hearing set for Tuesday. “In addition, considering the principles of proportionality of force and the fundamental strategy of graduated responses specific to civil disturbance operations, it was my observation that the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force.”
The Park Police’s media office did not respond Monday to inquiries. The Park Police is part of the National Park Service, which manages federal parkland, including Lafayette Square and much of downtown DC. The Natural Resources Committee oversees the agency.
DeMarco—a West Point graduate who spent five years on active duty, including a combat deployment in Iraq—says he has served in the National Guard since leaving active duty in 2014. In 2018, he ran for Congress in a Democratic primary, unsuccessfully challenging Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.). On May 29, DeMarco, along with the rest of the DC National Guard, was activated to help respond to protests, looting, and property damage that followed the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. The Guard troops were part of a massive federal mobilization that appears to have served as a template of sorts for federal responses to protests in other cities, including the ongoing crackdown against demonstrators in Portland.
On June 1, DeMarco was tapped to serve as a liaison between the DC Guard and the Park Police at Lafayette Square; he was one of the senior officers among the 250 DC Guard members present that day. He says that after arriving at the White House complex at 5:35 p.m., he learned that the DC Guard’s was tasked, along with the Secret Service, with helping the Park Police clear demonstrators from around Lafayette Square. He said he understood that action would take place after 7 p.m., when a curfew imposed by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser was scheduled to take effect.
DeMarco says he noticed Attorney General William Barr and General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, observing the federal personnel facing a crowd of about 2,000 protesters. …