When riot-clad police officers pushed the crowd from Lafayette Square, they ordered people to remove the tents that were occupied by some of the nearby protesters. The park, located across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, has been the site of largely peaceful protests that have been ongoing after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police last month.
After rejecting the protesters and chanting “go back, go back” on Tuesday morning, the police seemed to enter into a confrontation with the protesters, not allowing the passage of protesters or bystanders. A police line could be seen around the plaza on three surrounding streets.
“Unacceptable. We could have said any name other than ‘Black Lives Matter’ and you would not be doing this,” a man was heard yelling as he stood a few meters from the line of officers in the plaza.
The crowd began to disperse around noon and had calmed down at 2 p.m.
Alaina Gertz, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said two people were arrested for assaulting a police officer on Monday, but did not provide additional information about the clashes. Alexandra Picavet, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, acknowledged to CNN that the United States Park Police worked with local police officers and the Secret Service to “prevent the destruction of the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Park” and He said the park was temporarily closed.
During the Monday night riots, several journalists, including two CNN employees, were told they had to leave the White House grounds immediately on the south side of the complex, which is not the normal entrance / exit for the press. Usually, in security situations at the White House, the press corps is locked inside the compound.
“On Monday night, in response to the increasingly violent protests in Lafayette Park, four members of the media were misled by the Secret Service to leave the White House grounds. Members of the press were redirected to exits on the south side of the complex for your own safety, “a Secret Service spokesman told CNN.
Trump again threatens protesters
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning, Trump said he would sign an executive order punishing those who desecrate monuments to American veterans, although he acknowledged that federal law already prohibits such vandalism with up to 10 years in prison.
“All he’s really going to do is reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way,” Trump said.
In the nation’s capital, tensions between protester groups and law enforcement outside the White House have been a focal point for the nation in recent weeks, as protests continue over the murder of Floyd, a man Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis last month.
Last month, CNN reported that Trump was briefly taken to the underground bunker for a period of time as protesters gathered outside the White House. After that episode, the White House warned employees to go to work to hide their passes until they reach the Secret Service entry point and hide them when they leave, according to an email that was seen by CNN.
In an interview with Fox News that came before Monday night’s attempt to tear down the Jackson monument, Trump criticized efforts to tear down those statues, specifically citing calls to remove one from Jackson in Louisiana.
“Therefore, you must understand the history and understand the culture and many other aspects of our country,” Trump said in a clip from the interview published Tuesday morning.
“And people can study that and they can hate it and we all hate it. But you can’t tear down the George Washington statue, and half of our country is named after Washington. You can’t do it. You have to remember the heritage that – the culture of our country, “Trump continued.
This story has been updated with additional developments on Tuesday.
CNN’s Kristin Wilson, Allie Malloy, Maegan Vázquez, Gregory Wallace and Lindy Royce contributed to this report.