Comments at Racial Justice Hearing, June 18, 2020.
On June 1, 2020 racial justice protesters were forcibly ejected from Lafayette Park to make way for a photo op for President Trump. There is a popular consensus that this action, which was authorized by Attorney General William Barr, was unlawful and contrary the First and Fourth Amendment rights of the protesters.
Among those participating in the action were Arlington County police (ACPD) under the command of the U.S. Park Police. Arlington police were deployed under a mutual aid agreement with the Park Service to help restore order the weekend of May 30, following incidents of looting, arson and violent confrontations with police.
A press release issued by the County Manager on June 2, indicates that County Board and he were appalled at this unlawful police action. ACPD personnel were removed from the District of Columbia that night, and the County says it’s reviewing its mutual aid agreement with U.S. Park Service. Nevertheless there have been calls to fire the officers who participated in the action.
According to an ACLU lawsuit against Trump Administration officials filed on behalf of Black Lives Matter DC, Park Police were given the order to deploy in riot gear at around 6 p.m. on June 1. Around 6:30 p.m. Arlington police along with Park Police, Secret Service, military police and the DC National Guard actually assaulted the protesters. That gave Arlington police commanders a half hour to decide whether the order to clear Lafayette Park was lawful and if not how to extricate their force from the operation.
The assault itself was unprecedented. According to the New York Times, “What ensued was a burst of violence unlike any seen in the shadow of the White House in generations.”
In the confusion, I think that calls to discipline Arlington police constitute a rush to judgment. The County Manager acted prudently to suspend the County’s mutual aid agreement with the U.S. Park Police, and disciplinary action is unwarranted at this time.