Protesters Were Supposed To Hear Warnings Before Federal Police Moved In. They Didn’t.

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Police moved in on peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square near the White House with tear gas and smoke on June 1. U.S. Park Police made announcements asking protesters to leave, but few people appeared to hear them.

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«They have an obligation to notify that group that they are in violation of the law and to give them the opportunity to comply with the lawful order,» Verheyden-Hilliard said.

Verheyden-Hilliard represented demonstrators, tourists, and passersby who were arrested during a demonstration against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, DC., in 2002.

In that earlier episode, police trapped a crowd in Pershing Park, near the White House, and began mass arrests. «People were rounded up, they were put on buses, they were held for 27 hours or more, hogtied in stress and duress positions wrist to ankle,» said Verheyden-Hilliard. «Through this litigation, which was hard-fought litigation, we wanted to ensure that this would never happen again to someone in Washington, D.C.»

Then, 13 years later, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan awarded $2.2 million in damages and approved the settlement agreement in 2015. He called it «historic,» and said it could help set the standard for how police departments handle protesters nationwide.

Under that settlement agreement, police who intend to clear an area in Washington, D.C., are required to audibly warn protesters three times that they are violating the law and need to disperse to, in the words of the agreement, «give those who choose not to be arrested time to leave the immediate closed area.»

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During the 2002 protests against the World Bank, police trapped a crowd in Pershing Park in D.C. and started mass arrests. Protesters pleaded with police to let them leave. In 2015, a federal judge approved a settlement that laid out rules by which U.S. Park and D.C. police could engage mass demonstrations.

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Adam DeMarco, a major in the D.C. National Guard, testified before the House Natural Resources Committee in July that he couldn’t hear the announcements U.S. Park Police directed toward protesters in Lafayette Square on June 1.

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After police cleared the area using tear gas, President Trump emerged from the White House and was escorted through Lafayette Square to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo on June 1.

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After police cleared the area using tear gas, President Trump emerged from the White House and was escorted through Lafayette Square to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo on June 1.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

What happened after those announcements isn’t in dispute.

Officers began to clear the square at 6:30 pm, half an hour before the city-wide curfew went into effect. Horse-mounted park police officers, Civil Disturbance Units, Secret Service, all started to push the crowd back. There were explosions and smoke. DeMarco said they shot tear gas into the crowd. His eyes began to sting and he said he found tear gas canisters lying in the street after it was all over.

The smoke was still in the air when several black sport utility vehicles pulled up to the intersection of 16th Street and H and set up a cordon around St. John’s Church right by the square. The president appeared minutes later.

«The President’s arrival,» DeMarco testified, «was a complete surprise as we had not been briefed that he would enter our sector.»

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