By Leona Dunn
Inspector general, Mark Lee Greenblatt, recently revealed that his office found evidence which showed the U.S. Park Police cleared Lafayette Park, on the first Monday of June last year, to allow a contractor to (safely) install antiscale fencing.
I believe that report to be partially true.
In the park three days preceding the event remained the same three items involved: police officers, protestors, and guardrail gates/fencing.
I was there the first official night of large-scale George Floyd protest in the city.
There were security gates separating protestors from police as police stood in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Friday May 29th.
Behind the police was a large black fence, in front of them were small black security gates.
How did those security gates get put out without a mass attack on protestors that night?
I would guess through preparation since the gathering was preplanned and widely circulated through social media, which gave the capitol police enough time to prepare.
The officer’s barrier of security gates were loose and unsecured up to the point where officers began handcuffing the gates together because protestors kept knocking the gates down.
I filmed the police and protestors tug on a released security gate, back and forth, and started smelling the fresh graffiti spray painted on the sidewalk spelling out George Floyd’s name before leaving that night.
I knew more security would be there the next day.
The summary of the next two days at the park were more security gates reinforced by capitol and local police presence.
During the day, there was peaceful protesting, full of trash talking civilians and the occasional water bottle thrown at an officer. At night, more rioting happened that ended in property damage and large arrest campaigns.
When I arrived at Lafayette Park that Monday, I saw barbecues and prayer circles, but what captivated me was an artist right outside of the newly reinforced security barrier outlining the edges of Lafayette Parks grass.
This barrier effectively kept protestors pushed back to the outer sidewalk of the park as they spilled throughout H Street.
This barrier outlined the same place fencing would be put up after the incident.
I watched the artist paint before the crowd began to murmur.
A crowd of man walk out into Lafayette Park behind the police barricade. Attorney General William Barr and some man in black. I filmed the interaction.
This was around 6:12pm.
I was planning to leave around 6:50 so that I wouldn’t be accused of trying to break the city’s curfew which was set for 7pm.
Yet, almost immediately after Barr walked away around 6:20pm, the previously still officers sprang into action.
First, I heard horses before I saw the first burst of smoke and a crowd of people to the right of me begin to run.
I got close enough to ask one police officer wearing an arm patch that read ‘Virginia State Police’ what was going on, in which he replied, “I have no idea Ma’am.”
That answer is the only reason why I can somewhat believe that when officers where initially called to the park that day it was not for the attack that took place.
I want to believe that they came for the fencing.
What the report fails to mention is that somewhere during this operation there was a clear and abrupt change of plans.
General William Barr’s presence may have been unplanned, but the presidential photoshoot was not. Barr’s presence and what came next couldn’t have been a coincidence, in my opinion.
I watched different police units go from zero to one hundred, in a matter of minutes, after Barr’s appearance.
If the plan to shoot and gas protestors that were legally able to be on the outer sidewalks of the gated barrier surrounding Lafayette Park was an actual plan, that the White House had nothing to do with, then answer me one question.
The city curfew was only about a half an hour away.
The officers stood for hours in advance in place. I watched as some got relieved and came back.
Is this what we as citizens are supposed to expect from our capitol police department when they know that crowds will gather, crowds that notoriously remained peaceful during the days of summer protest against the very bad practices police officers decided to employ that day?
If so, why didn’t we see this type of planned or even unplanned preparation to harm peaceful protestors on January 6th.
I hope we continue to question these very unrealistic narratives we are being plagued with on a weekly basis. It seems to me our very democracy depends on our individual ability to filter what we choose to believe, and the filters broken.