June 23, 2020

Wyden, Grijalva, Haaland Welcome Interior Watchdog Probe into Excessive Use of Force Against Peaceful Lafayette Park Protesters for Trump Photo Op

The Interior Inspector General says it is reviewing U.S. Park Police and other federal law enforcement excessive use of force against peaceful protesters and journalists in Lafayette Park following request from lawmakers earlier this month

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Deb Haaland, D-N.M., today welcomed the decision of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to review the U.S. Park Police's excessive use of force against peaceful protesters and journalists in Lafayette Park to clear the way for a staged photo of Donald Trump in front of St. John's Episcopal Church.

Inspector General Mark Greenblatt wrote in a letter to Wyden, Grijalva and Haaland that his Office "already begun collecting and reviewing information concerning the Park Police’s activities," and "will make an initial determination of which agency had command and control of the law enforcement operation and conduct a review of Park Police actions accordingly."

"The American people need to know who ordered the horrific attacks against peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park earlier this month, especially since no one in the Trump administration will take responsibility. David Bernhardt refuses to own up to his own role in this scandal and continues to deny basic answers to the American people," said Wyden, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “The First Amendment rights to free speech, peaceful assembly, and free press are the bedrock of all other rights, and I am hopeful that the Inspector General will get to the bottom of who ordered the Park Police to muzzle these rights all so Donald Trump could stage a photo op.”

“The Trump administration has had three weeks to offer a clear explanation of why it used excessive force against accredited journalists and peaceful, unarmed protesters, but we still have no good answers. The White House narrative is contradicted by video evidence, eyewitness accounts, and even its own past statements. Frankly, it has no credibility at this point. The inspector general investigation and the Natural Resources Committee hearing on June 29 will both shed important light into how this shameful episode happened and what Congress needs to do to make sure it isn’t repeated,” said Grijalva, Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

“Federal officials should never abuse their power to silence first amendment rights, but as our country reels from the murders of unarmed Black community members, federal law enforcement officers were ordered to use force against peaceful protesters so that President Trump could have a photo-op.  I’m pleased the Inspector General will be investigating this appalling abuse of power, so that those responsible can be held accountable,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

A copy of the OIG's response to Wyden, Grijalva and Haaland can be found here

A copy of the lawmakers' request to the OIG earlier this month can be found here