Administration skips hearing on violence against protesters

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George Washington University Law School Law Professor Jonathan Turley, center, testifies beside U.S. Navy veteran and Black Lives Matter protester Kishon McDonald, left, and Amelia Brace of Australia's Seven News, Monday, June 29, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, during the House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the police response in Lafayette Square. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – The head of the U.S. Park Police refused to appear Monday to answer lawmakers’ questions on violence against demonstrators and journalists outside the White House, saying he couldn’t as long as the federal force remains on highest alert for protests and attacks against monuments.

The White House, however, trumpeted the administration's continuing support of law officers in the now subsiding protests. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that President Donald Trump's vision was “for law and order, for peace in our streets, and against anarchy.”

The Trump administration at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing Monday on official use of force at this month's street protests did provide a written count and details on federal statues that had suffered lasting damage in the nation’s capital -– two. But Democratic lawmakers charged officials again failed to provide any evidence justifying the Park Police’s subjecting protesters and news media to chemical agents, clubbing and punching while clearing Lafayette Square in front of the White House on June 1.

“If there was a shred of evidence,” the administration would have presented “fact witnesses to support this gaslighting,” Rep. Jared Huffman, a California Democrat, said.

Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah said the committee hearing, which featured an Australian journalist and a military veteran injured in authorities’ routing of demonstrators, but no administration officials, amounted to “political theater” and “good drama.”

The forceful clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square came during weeks of massive street demonstrations around the country against police killings of Black Americans. More recently, sporadic protests nationally have sought to take down statues of Confederate generals and other monuments that are seen as glossing over historic wrongs to U.S. Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans.

The clearing of Lafayette Square is the subject of an Interior Department inspector-general’s review and at least one lawsuit brought by those wounded. One of those, Navy veteran Kishon McDonald, told lawmakers Monday of being hit by the shrapnel from flash-bang grenades that authorities fired to chase away what he said were peaceful protesters.

“It hurts as a Black man to see that it’s 2020 and we still have a government who would do this to us again over something that seems so right to protest about,” McDonald said.