Trump defends ‘photo op’ when visiting church damaged by fire

On Wednesday, President Trump advocated a “very symbolic” visit to the fire-damaged church near the White House.

However, Trump said he did not know that police-brutality protesters who had occupied the area for days would be cleared from the road ahead of the visit.

“Now, when I said ‘Go to church,’ I didn’t know the protesters or didn’t. Nobody tells me this. ‘Yes sir. We will go to church. “So we walked over to the church,” Trump said in a radio interview.

The visit on Monday evening showed that after the clashes, the US Park Police and other officers in agile equipment used batons, pepper balls and smoke boxes to repel protesters and journalists.

“I heard how beautiful and wonderful the protesters are there. Really? Then why did they burn the church the day before? Said Trump.

“It was very fast,” Trump said. “I held a Bible. I think it’s a good thing, not a bad thing. “

St. John’s Episcopal Church was built in 1816, and every president has been involved in a service there since James Madison. An area of ​​the basement of the building was set on fire shortly after activists stole the American flag of the church and added it to a bonfire in the middle of H Street near the White House.

Recently, arsonists also burned the headquarters of the AFL-CIO unit, which featured toilet and multiple cars at Lafayette Park.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who accompanied Trump on a march on Wednesday, said he was unaware of what he called the “photo op”.

“I knew we were going to church. I was not aware that a photo operation was taking place, ”Esper said.

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“Look, I do everything I can to try to stay apolitical and avoid political situations, and sometimes I can achieve this and sometimes I can’t be that successful.”

Whether the protesters gathered for Trump’s visit were removed.

Park Police said they were cleaning the area because they were attacked with bottles and bricks when trying to build new fencing.

However, DC Police Chief Peter Newsham, whose force was not involved in the action, said on Wednesday that “fencing did not occur until after the president’s move”.

The Park Police denied a wide-ranging circulation claim, claiming that they used tear gas near the church, but was similarly approved using smoke boxes and chili balls that could irritate the eyes. Esper also said that the National Guard members who helped the police did not use tear gas.

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