Adam DeMarco, a major in the DC National Guard, testified on Tuesday in front of the House Natural Resources Committee, saying that the police intervention on peaceful protesters ahead of President Donald Trump’s church photo op was “disturbing.”
“From my observation, those demonstrators – our fellow American citizens — were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force,” DeMarco said about the events at Lafayette Square in June.
The Iraq veteran stated that law enforcement’s reaction was “deeply disturbing” to him, as well as to other National Guardsmen.
The incident DeMarco referred to took place at Lafayette Square on the evening of June 1, before President Trump walked to St. John’s Church, across the street from the White House, along with other federal officials to pose with a Bible during the racial justice demonstrations that broke out in response to the police killing of George Floyd.
Police forces reportedly used tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound cannons to disperse the crowd ahead of the officials’ walk.
The National Guard did not take part in the operation, but they were behind the Park Police on Vermont Avenue, 16th Street, and Connecticut Avenue “to reinforce and relieve the Park Police on the newly established northern perimeter,” according to DeMarco’s testimony.
“Having served in a combat zone, and understanding how to assess threat environments, at no time did I feel threatened by the protestors or assess them to be violent. In addition, considering the principles of proportionality of force and the fundamental strategy of graduated responses specific to civil disturbance operations, it was my observation that the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force,” DeMarco said.
“As the late Representative John Lewis said, ‘When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something,’” he added, saying that the Constitution of the United States compelled him to say something – and do something – about what he witnessed on June 1.
Acting US Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan also spoke before the Committee on the same day, defending the harsh police intervention.