D.C.'s mayor and the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington are among those voicing criticism of the president's use of a church and a Bible for a campaign photo-op that was preceded by law enforcement using pepper balls and smoke canisters to clear his way through crowds of protesters near the White House.
Federal law enforcement cleared protesters out of the area Monday evening before President Donald Trump walked from the White House Rose Garden to St. John’s Church, where he just stood outside the house of worship posing for his own cameras while brandishing a closed Bible.
U.S. Park Police said protesters threw "bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids" before D.C.'s 7 p.m. curfew was imposed. Three warnings were issued over a loudspeaker before the area was cleared, Park Police said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser criticized how Lafayette Square was cleared in a tweet Monday evening.
Arlington, Virginia, police were among the officers providing additional support, but Arlington County Board Member Libby Garvey tweeted those officers were "ordered to immediately leave D.C.”
Bishop Mariann Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said she was "outraged" that the president had attempted to use the church and a Bible as props for his reelection campaign.
"The President just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for,” Budde said. “To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard."
"The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country."
Budde told Craig Melvin on TODAY on Tuesday that she was "also deeply disappointed that ... he didn't come to church to offer condolences to those who were grieving, he didn't come to commit to healing our nation — all the things that we would expect and long for from the highest leader in the land."
Budde was asked if she knew what Trump hoped to accomplish with Monday's visit to St. John's.
"I am not going to wager a guess, but I know what it did not accomplish,'' she said. "It did not serve the spiritual aspirations or the needed moral leadership that we need."
"I cannot speak to his motives because he did not consult us, he did not warn us that he was coming across the street to the church," she added.
Budde expressed her support for the black community during the ongoing protests and said the church is praying for peace and justice.
"We share in the grief and the outrage of life after life of African American and people of color in this country being subjected to violence and death, often at the hands of those who are meant to keep them safe,'' she said. "We would long to be part of the renewal and the healing of our country."
The church, which was damaged by a fire in the basement during protests on Sunday night, has been attended by every president since James Madison.
CORRECTION (June 2, 5:51 p.m.): An earlier version of this article said tear gas was used to clear the area. U.S. Park Police clarified pepper spray was used, not tear gas.