The scene was jarring: Police violently broke up a peaceful and legal protest by several thousands in Lafayette Park across from the White House ahead of a speech in the Rose Garden by President Donald Trump.
The protesters had gathered in the park on a sunny evening Monday following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis a week earlier.
The police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and deployed flash bangs. As police directly confronted the protesters, many held up their hands, saying, “Don’t shoot.”
In his speech, Trump declared himself “the president of law and order,” and he threatened to deploy the U.S. military unless states halt violent protests. As an additional show of force, he announced he was deploying even more of the military to Washington, giving it the feel of an armed, locked-down city after days of unrest.
Afterward, Trump strolled out of the White House gates — something he had never done before — and walked across the cleared Lafayette Park to make a surprise visit to St. John’s Church.
Every president has prayed at the landmark pale yellow building, although it was damaged Sunday in a fire during the protests.
Trump, standing alone in front of cameras, raised a Bible. He didn’t mention Floyd, the church or the peaceful protesters police had just cleared away.