WASHINGTON, June 4. /TASS/. Tear gas and rubber bullets were not used to disperse protestors at Washington's Lafayette Square near the White House, its press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters.
"No tear gas was used, no rubber bullets were used," she said. "Let me make that clear. That’s been confirmed by DOD [Department of Defense] and by Park Services, as well."
In her words, police had all reasons to disperse the crowd.
"The protesters were told three times over loudspeaker that they needed to move. And what happened was it grew increasingly unruly. There were projectiles being thrown at officers. Frozen water bottles were being thrown at officers. Various other projectiles," the spokesperson said.
"And the officers had no other choice than, in that moment, to act and make sure that they were safe and that the perimeter was pushed back, because as we all know, a church was burning in that very area the night before," she added.
US President Donald Trump addressed the nation in connection with the unrest in the country from the White House’s Rose Garden on Monday. As he delivered his remarks, flash-bang explosions and sounds of tear gas grenades could be heard in the background. Shots were also heard as police attempted to disperse the rally at the Lafayette Square. The crackdown occurred shortly before the curfew went into effect at 19:00 local time. Some time later, Trump left his residence and crossed the already-empty square to reach the St. Johns Church, which was set ablaze by protesters overnight.
A number of US media outlets expressed the opinion that the rally was dispersed because of the US president’s plans. Among them was The New York Times, which issued an article headlined ‘Protesters Dispersed With Tear Gas So Trump Could Pose at Church.’
The White House dismissed those reports on Tuesday.
Mass unrest has engulfed many US states over the death of an African-American Minneapolis man named George Floyd. He died after a police officer kneeled on his neck and choked him to death while being taken into custody. On May 26, all police officers involved in the deadly arrest were fired and one policeman, Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
To counter the riots, local law enforcement is often supported by the US National Guard. So far, 40 cities, including New York and Washington, have enacted a curfew.