Secret Service admits to using pepper spray to clear protesters before Trump photo-op at church

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President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, D.C.(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John’s Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, D.C.(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

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The U.S. Secret Service issued a statement Saturday saying an agency employee used pepper spray on June 1 during efforts to secure Lafayette Square and clear protesters from the area just prior to President Donald Trump’s controversial photo-op at a local church.

In a statement, the Secret Service noted it previously “released information stating the agency had concluded that no agency personnel used tear gas or capsicum spray during efforts to secure the area near Lafayette Park on Monday, June 1, based on the records and information available at the time. Since that time, the agency has learned that one agency employee used capsicum spray (i.e., pepper spray) during that effort.”

“The employee utilized oleoresin capsicum spray, or pepper spray, in response to an assaultive individual,” the agency said in the statement.

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the US Park Police said that the department had made a mistake by earlier denying the use of tear gas to clear peaceful protesters from a public park outside the White House on June 1.

Sgt. Eduardo Delgado, a spokesperson for the Park Police, told CNN on June 5 he realized the department could have called the pepper balls it used “tear gas,” and that it was a “mistake” to say the force hadn’t used tear gas during the operation.

Trump’s walk from the White House across Lafayette Square to St. John’s Episcopal Church that took place after authorities forcibly pushed out peaceful protesters has drawn criticism from lawmakers and public figures, including former Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The episode sparked a national outcry, including within the district where Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser denounced what she described as an attack against protesters.

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