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Virginia county pulls officers from D.C. after Trump church photo-op

  • President Donald Trump walks past police in Lafayette Park after he visited outside St. John's Church across from the White House Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington. Part of the church was set on fire during protests on Sunday night. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

    President Donald Trump walks past police in Lafayette Park after he visited outside St. John's Church across from the White House Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington. Part of the church was set on fire during protests on Sunday night. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

ARLINGTON, Va. >> Arlington County, Virginia, pulled its officers out of the District of Columbia Monday night after they played a supporting role in clearing protesters from a park outside the White House so the president could walk to a church for a photo opportunity.

The County Board issued a statement Monday night saying its officers were used “for a purpose not worthy of our mutual aid obligations.”

Arlington officers joined a team of federal law enforcers using chemical agents and flashbangs to forcibly remove a large group of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park.

That cleared a path for President Donald Trump, vowing a crackdown from the Rose Garden, to walk in front of the White House over to St. John’s Church, which had been damaged in earlier protests. Trump then posed with a Bible for a few minutes.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said on Twitter she’s “appalled” that the mutual aid agreement was abused “for a photo op.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, for her part, said today that the District of Columbia never put out a call for mutual aid.

“I might suggest their officers shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Bowser added.

In a phone interview, Garvey said the aid request came from U.S. Park Police, and that the agencies have provided aid to each other routinely over the years. She said Arlington Police were helping in the District Saturday and Sunday without incident.

What was unacceptable Monday, she said, was using officers to facilitate “a press op.”

An Arlington police spokeswoman did not immediately return an email and phone call asking how many officers were deployed and what level of force they engaged in.

With Lafayette Park under federal control, it could serve as an example of the aggressive moves Trump said should be taken to deal with demonstrations nationwide that have veered from peaceful to violent.

But Bowser expressed criticism at her press conference of the use of force to clear protesters under such circumstances.

“I didn’t see any provocation … especially for the purpose of moving the president across the street.” she said.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said the city was not informed of the presidential movement until right before it happened. Newsham said his officers were not involved in moving the protesters out of Trump’s way.

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