The U.S. Secret Service now admits that one of its employees used pepper spray during protests near the White House earlier this month.
Officers from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Park Police advanced on a crowd of protesters on June 1 to clear the street in front of Lafayette Square before President Donald Trump walked to St. John's Episcopal Church to have his photo taken with a Bible.
Videos of protesters coughing as clouds of smoke filled the air captured nationwide attention.
The Secret Service previously said it did not use tear gas or pepper spray.
But in an about-face, the agency said in a statement Saturday that an employee used pepper spray in response to an "assaultive individual."
The U.S. Park Police said in a statement Saturday its officers deployed smoke canisters, stinger balls and pepper balls after protesters became combative. The protesters threw projectiles, grabbed officers' protective equipment and tried to grab one officer's weapon, according to Park Police.
Read the full statement from the Park Police below:
In assisting the USSS with their protective mission of the White House Zone, more than 50 U.S. Park Police Officers sustained injuries, some being hospitalized, throughout the operational period starting on May 29th. This illegal behavior by the protestors also resulted in several structure fires and significant property damage. This is indisputable.
Following the violence that continued on May 30th where officers were hit with bricks and assaulted, the USSS and USPP had initial discussions regarding adjustments to the collective posture in Lafayette Park and potentially obtaining fencing. As violence and destruction continued in Washington, DC, putting both the public and law enforcement at risk, on Sunday, May 31, USSS confirmed with USPP that the anti-scale fencing would be procured and potentially delivered on Monday for installation along H Street.
On Monday, June 1, USPP received confirmation from the USSS that the fencing would be delivered during the day with the expectation of being installed in the evening. Both agencies concurred with a plan to clear H Street to prevent a repeat of the protestors’ attacks and destruction that occurred on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and to create a safe environment for the fence to be installed. Pedestrians were to be moved from the immediate area of the 1600 block of H Street to the following points: H Street & Connecticut Avenue on the west, 16th & I Streets to the north, H St. east of Vermont Avenue to the east.
The timing of implementing the plan was contingent upon having enough resources on scene. Given that the majority of law enforcement personnel did not report until later in the day, a late afternoon or early evening operation was inevitable.
Reiterating my previous statement, at approximately 6:33 pm, violent protestors on H Street NW continued to throw projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids. The protestors also climbed onto a historic building at the north end of Lafayette Park that was destroyed by arson the previous day. Intelligence had revealed calls for violence against the police, and officers found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats and metal poles hidden along the street.
To curtail the violence that was underway, the USPP, following standard operating procedures, issued three warnings over a loudspeaker to alert demonstrators on H Street to evacuate the area. Horse mounted patrol, Civil Disturbance Units and additional personnel were used to clear the area. As many of the protestors became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, grab officer’s protective equipment, and even attempted to grab one officers’ weapon, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters, stinger balls, and pepper balls. On June 1, USPP officers and other assisting law enforcement partners operating under the command of the USPP did not use tear gas or Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park. Subsequently, the fence was installed.