National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco testifies during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on actions taken on June 1, 2020 at Lafayette Square, Tuesday, July 28, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (Leah Millis/Pool via AP)
National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco testifies during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on actions taken on June 1, 2020 at Lafayette Square, Tuesday, July 28, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP)

National Guard commander says Park Police used “unnecessary” force

Army National Guard commander Adam DeMarco testified Tuesday that Park Police used “unnecessary” force when they cleared a path for President Trump to visit St. John’s Church through Lafayette Square in Washington D.C. for a photo op with a Bible.

That incident has since been condemned by faith and government leaders, after video surfaced of protesters exercising their First Amendment rights were forcibly removed from the square.

In his written testimony, which was released a day prior to his appearance in the House, DeMarco said the Park Police’s use of force against protesters was “deeply disturbing.”

“Having served in a combat zone, and understanding how to assess threat environments, at no time did I feel threatened by the protesters or assess them to be violent,” he wrote.

DeMarco currently serves as a major in the D.C. National Guard and is a veteran of the Iraq war. His perspective was important, as directly contradicts statements made by Attorney General Bill Bar and the Trump Administration about the incident.

It also brought into question acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan’s testimony, who also appeared before the same House committee. Monahan said protesters were behaving violently during the demonstration on June 1 and the police were justified in their use of force.

Monahan also said that Park Police “acted with tremendous restraint,” in controlling the crowd that evening.

Monahan testified before DeMarco, claiming that although the protests were not considered violent on June 1, protests in the days leading up to that day left approximately 50 park police officers injured.

Monahan also repeatedly claimed that White House officials and Barr did not order the Park Police to disperse the protesters. Instead, he said, the removal of protesters was ordered so that officials could install a new fence around the area to prevent more damage, the church had been damaged by fire the previous night. He claimed it had nothing to do with President Trump’s walk from the White House to St. John’s Church to take a photo.

“There was 100% zero correlation between our operation and the president’s visit to the church,” he said.

DeMarco painted a very different picture with his testimony. He claimed that the demonstrations on June 1 were markedly more peaceful than previous days. DeMarco also claimed that while Park Police gave verbal warnings ordering protesters to disperse the three commands were “barely audible.”

“It was my observation that the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force,” DeMarco said in his testimony. “From my observation, those demonstrators, our fellow American citizens, were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”

DeMarco said he felt compelled to appear before the committee to provide his account of the events that day, quoting the late Rep. John Lewis saying “when you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have the moral obligation to say something, to do something.”