The U.S. Secret Service backtracked on a prior claim about using pepper spray against protestors in Lafayette Park earlier this month in a brief statement released late Saturday.
President Donald Trump‘s much-criticized June 1 speech threatening a military intervention to squash national racial justice protests followed by photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. has drawn ire and outrage for various reasons–chief among them: using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse those peaceful protesters.
Contemporaneous videos of the incident showed the use chemical agents against the throng of people.
“The point is we admitted to using what we used,” Park Police Sgt. Eduardo Delgado said. “I think the term ‘tear gas’ doesn’t even matter anymore. It was a mistake on our part for using ‘tear gas’ because we just assumed people would think CS or CN,” referring to two of the more common forms of tear gas used by law enforcement.
Park Police acting Chief Gregory Monahan walked back the walk-back later that same day: “United States Park Police officers and other assisting law enforcement partners did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park in response to violent protestors.”
However: numerous OC Skat Shells were recovered on the scene.
Video obtained by the Washington Post showed federal agents holding and firing what appear to be tear gas launchers.
An investigation by local CBS affiliate WUSA showed that those agents had, in fact, fired Stinger Ball Grenades containing tear gas–which, again, was clearly visible in several videos documenting the incident.
The next day, the Secret Service’s press release dated June 5 claimed:
Washington D.C. – The Secret Service has determined that no agency personnel used tear gas or capsicum spray during its efforts to secure the area near Lafayette Park on Monday, June 1st, 2020.
As it turns out, that wasn’t actually true either.
Saturday’s release admittedly revises the original claim:
Washington D.C. – On June 5, the U.S. Secret Service released information stating that the agency had concluded that no agency personnel used tear gas or capsicum spray during efforts to secure the area near Lafayette Park on Monday, June 1, based on the records and information available at that time. Since that time, the agency has learned that one agency employee used capsicum spray (i.e., pepper spray) during that effort. Accordingly, the Secret Service is issuing the following correction to the record:
“After further review, the U.S. Secret Service has determined that an agency employee used pepper spray on June 1st, during efforts to secure the area near Lafayette Park. The employee utilized oleoresin capsicum spray, or pepper spray, in response to an assaultive individual.”
A full and transparent account of the administration’s and law enforcement’s use of chemical agents against protesters on the day in question has yet to be made public.
Protests across the country are still raging and over 3,000 separate demonstrations have been held since the Minneapolis Police Department’s killing of George Floyd on May 25.
[image Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
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