CLERGY at St John’s Church have slammed Donald Trump for using the site as a photo opportunity “prop,” as it was revealed priests were among the “peaceful protesters” teargassed.
Demonstrators in Washington DC were teargassed by cops Monday to clear a path for the President so he could be photographed in front of the church with a Bible in his hand.
Donald Trump left the White House and walked across the street to the historic church which had been partially burned during protests the night before.
It was reported Mr Trump was angry about the news coverage saying he had fled into the White House bunker on Friday during the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd and wanted to be seen in public, according to CNN.
But Mr Trump’s actions triggered outrage by some members of the clergy as well as rival politicians.
Gini Gerbasi, a rector at St. John’s Church, revealed in a Facebook post that she and other Black Lives Matter organizers had been giving out water and help to protesters alongside fellow clergy and laypeople, when police swarmed the area, pushing protesters, deploying tear gas, and firing rubber bullets.
Gerbasi said: “That man turned it into a BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second.”
She added: “Friends, I am ok, but I am, frankly shaken… Around 6:15 or 6:30, the police started really pushing protesters off of H Street… They started using tear gas and folks were running at us for eyewashes or water or wet paper towels.”
She said she was appalled when she learned the area was being cleared for Mr Trump’s arrival.
“I literally COULD NOT believe it. We were driven off the patio at St. John’s – a place of peace and respite and medical care throughout the day – so that man could have a photo opportunity in front of the church.
“People were hurt so he could pose in front of the church with a Bible,” she said.
Glenna Huber, a priest and rector with The Church of the Epiphany was also at the church assisting protesters when the cops arrived.
Huber wrote on Facebook: “I’m horrified. Just moments before we were handing out snacks and water.
“There was some men singing on the steps. People were chanting and peacefully assembling.
“I left as the National Guard arrived. They sprayed tear gas. I was gone before the rubber bullets. And then the President spoke.”
That man turned it into a BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second
Speaking in the Rose Garden before heading to the church Trump had He declared himself "your president of law and order" and said he was committed to upholding laws and mobilizing the military to end nationwide looting and rioting.
Trump threatened to invoke an 1807 law to mobilize the military around the country to "quickly solve the problem" and called the fiery Sunday night demonstrations in the nation's capital a "disgrace".
"I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," he said.
"I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital, Washington DC. What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace".
Following the clash with protesters, Arlington County officials recalled their police out of Washington DC after their officers, dressed in riot gear, helped US Park officials in dispersing protesters near the church.
Officials said they had sent officers on Sunday after a request for help from Park Police but added they did not know officers would be used to clash with protesters.
“Appalled mutual aid agreement abused to endanger their and others safety for a photo op. We ordered @ArlingtonVaPD to immediately leave DC,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey tweeted Monday night.
I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem
“At the direction of the County Board, County Manager and Police Chief, ACPD officers have left the District. We are evaluating the agreements that allowed our officers to be put in a compromising position, which devalued the purpose of these mutual aid obligations,” County Board member Katie Cristol said.
The Episcopal Bishop of Washington DC, Mariann Budde, also slammed Trump for using force to remove George Floyd protesters and for posing in front of the church, The Washington Post has reported.
Bishop Budde said: “I am outraged. I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop, holding a Bible, one that declares that God is love and when everything he has said and done is to enflame violence.”
She added: “We so disassociate ourselves from the messages of this president.
“We hold the teachings of our sacred texts to be so, so grounding to our lives and everything we do and it is about love of neighbor and sacrificial love and justice.”
The president issued a stern warning to rioters and said he would throw them in jail.
"Those who threaten innocent life and property will be arrested, detained, and prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law. I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail," he said.
Hours before protests kicked off in the nation's capital for another night, Trump told "weak" governors that "they must jail 'terrorist' protesters" for a decade after initially peaceful demonstrations erupted in violence around the country.
According to audio of a video meeting obtained by CBS News, Trump said: "Washington was under very good control, but we're now going to have it under much more control."
"We're going to pull in thousands of people. We're going to clamp down very strong," he added.
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