In response to the last summer’s fiery, sometimes violent, and destructive Black Lives Matters protests at the nation’s Capitol, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is creating a task force to look at policing policies in the Interior Department’s law enforcement agencies and whether they handled the situation properly.
Haaland’s memo outlining the task force said the focus will be on building strength the trust in the Interior Department’s law enforcement subsections, including in the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Haaland referenced a report from the Office of Inspector General, entitled “Review of U.S. Park Police Actions at Lafayette Park,” which detailed the actions the U.S. Park Police used to disperse protestors in and around Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, during the unrest that went three weeks from May 28 to June 23, 2020. Secret Service agents suffered broken bones due to rocks and bottles of urine and alcohol thrown at them by the rioters.
The task force will use what Haaland calls an “equity lens” and “evidence-based decision making,” to look for ways to improve the agency’s law enforcement program and build trust with minority communities.
“This task force will focus on ways to (1) strengthen trust in our law enforcement programs; (2) ensure appropriate policy and oversight is implemented; and (3) ensure supportive resources are available for officer mental health, wellness, and safety,” she said.
“The task force shall also involve experts from the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights and from the Office of Human Capital, at a minimum, and will request engagement from other entities in the Department as needed,” Haaland wrote.
“I am confident that this Department-wide approach will identify meaningful solutions to assist law enforcement and communities in strengthening trust and collaboration, while ushering the Nation into the next phase of community-focused law enforcement,” she wrote. (Emphasis ours)
The protests in Lafayette Park were sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and were part of nationwide rioting and looting, but the D.C. protest was aimed largely at President Donald Trump during an election year, and police used flash bangs, tear gas, and shields to safely clear the Black Lives Matter protesters from the area.
Black Lives Matter sued the Trump Administration, but last month a federal judge ruled Black Lives Matter can’t claim damages over the removal of their protesters from Lafayette Square.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich dismissed claims that Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper had coordinated a conspiracy directed at black protesters.
“Merely alleging that the defendant officials communicated, without alleging any details of those communications that suggest an unlawful agreement, cannot justify inferring the requisite agreement” Friedrich wrote.
Now, the Interior Department will take its own shot at the Trump Administration over the clearing of the Lafayette Park riot, which Trump opponents say was done so that Trump could walk to a nearby church for a media appearance.
Trump’s appearance at the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square across from the White House, which had been set on fire by rioters, enraged Trump opponents, who said it was Trump showing false piety and that he is a white supremacist. Trump went to the church as a symbol to the nation that he would restore order in the Capital and not allow the destruction of historic property and monuments.
The protesters came so close to the White House on May 30, 2020 and were so volatile that the Secret Service ushered Trump into a basement bunker designed to protect the president from a terrorist attack, as protesters threw rocks and tried to break through police barricades.
Protesters crossed temporary barricades set up near the Treasury Department buildings and entered President’s Park, next to the White House.
Rosa Pineda photo from Wikipedia.