For Immediate Release: Friday, November _, 2020
Contact: Kevin Bell (202) 265-7337; Kirsten Stade firstname.lastname@example.org
First Glimpse Behind Scenes at Battle of Lafayette Park
Confusion and Misinformation Dominated Operation Outside White House
Washington, DC — As new post-election barriers engird the White House, the first documents are emerging about controversial confrontations at this same spot five months earlier following the death of George Floyd. In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the U.S. Park Police have belatedly released 101 pages of email communications showing confusion among senior officials and raising more questions than they answer.
While much of the information has been hidden by redactions, this initial Park Police document release includes some new details and confirms others, including:
- The Park Police fired its entire stockpile of Pepper-Ball munitions between May 30th and June 1st;
- By June 2d, the fourth day of the protests, the Park Police was not aware of which federal law enforcement agencies were responding to the protests in DC; and
- The NPS Chief of Public Affairs found out from a local reporter on Twitter that the agency had been deploying chemical weapons via OC Skat Shells in Lafayette Square.
“These documents show federal officials lost in the fog of a self-declared war against unarmed protesters,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Kevin Bell, noting the ironic timing of the record release on the evening before Election Day. “These first glimpses depict panic and pandemonium among senior officials at several federal agencies.”
The documents also raise intriguing questions about the intel motivating federal players on those late May-early June days. For example, the National Park Service was concerned that tweets by an Egyptologist about “pulling down an obelisk” could indicate a threat to the Washington Monument.
The Park Police has yet to even review 4,500 of the 5,000 pages it found responsive to PEER’s FOIA request. Much of the information in the first 101 pages it did release has been heavily redacted. and the balance is still under review.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg with a large underside,” remarked Bell, noting that the House Natural Resources Committee called for a criminal investigation into Interior’s top lawyer for the same kind of delay in producing records in FOIA litigation. “These documents raise serious questions about the wisdom of using the U.S. Park Police as a private presidential Praetorian Guard.”