As riot-gear clad police officers pushed the crowd back from Lafayette Square, they ordered people to remove tents that were occupied by some of the demonstrators nearby. The park has been the site of largely peaceful protests that have been ongoing following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police last month.
After pushing back protesters and chanting “move back, move back” Tuesday morning, police appeared to enter a standoff with the protesters, not allowing demonstrators or bystanders through. A police line could be seen surrounding the plaza on three surrounding streets.
“Unacceptable. We could’ve said any other name but ‘Black Lives Matter’ and y’all wouldn’t be doing this,” one man could be heard shouting as he stood feet away from the line of officers on the plaza.
Alaina Gertz, a Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman, said two people were arrested for assaulting a police officer Monday but did not immediately provide additional information about the clashes. Alexandra Picavet, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, acknowledged to CNN that US Park Police worked with local police officers and the Secret Service to “prevent the destruction on the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Park” and said the park was temporarily closed.
During Monday night’s unrest, several journalists, including two CNN employees, were told they had to leave the White House grounds immediately via the south side of the complex, which is not the normal entrance/exit for the press. Typically in security situations at the White House, the press corps is locked down inside the complex.
“On Monday evening, in response to the increasingly violent demonstrations in Lafayette Park, four members of the media were misdirected by the Secret Service to leave the White House grounds. The members of the press were rerouted to exits on the south side of the complex for their own safety,” a Secret Service spokesperson told CNN.
Trump again threatens protesters
Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, Trump said he would sign an executive order punishing those who desecrate monuments to US veterans, though he acknowledged that federal law already prohibits such vandalism with up to 10 years’ prison time.
“All it’s really going to do is reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way,” Trump said.
In the nation’s capital, tensions between groups of protesters and law enforcement outside the White House have been a focal point for the nation in recent weeks as protests continue to play out over the killing of Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis last month.
Last month, CNN reported that Trump was briefly taken to the underground bunker for a period of time as protesters gathered outside the White House. Following that episode, the White House cautioned staffers who must go to work to hide their passes until they reach a Secret Service entry point and to hide them as they leave, according to an email which was viewed by CNN.
In an interview with Fox News that was given before Monday night’s attempt to pull down the Jackson monument, Trump criticized efforts to pull such statues down, specifically citing calls to remove one of Jackson in Louisiana.
“So you have to understand history and you have to understand the culture and so many other aspects of our country,” Trump said in a clip of the interview released Tuesday morning.
“And people can study that and they can hate it and let’s all hate it. But you can’t take down George Washington’s statue, and half of our country is named after Washington. You can’t do it. You have to remember the heritage that — the culture of our country,” Trump continued.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
CNN’s Kristin Wilson, Allie Malloy, Maegan Vazquez, Gregory Wallace and Lindy Royce contributed to this report.