Attorney General William Barr exited the White House on Monday evening to tour Lafayette Square, just minutes before police mounted on horses fired tear gas and flashbang grenades at protesters demonstrating againt police brutality.
Barr, who was surrounded by his security detail, toured the police line keeping the protestors at bay while demonstrators shouted at him. The night before, fires were started and buildings were vandalized in the area.
The attorney general’s appearance at the protests against the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody, comes after President Trump and Barr encouraged more aggressive action against those who cause violence during protests across the country following the killing of Floyd.
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Barr told the state leaders earlier in the day that law enforcement officials must “have adequate force” and “go after troublemakers.”
“Law enforcement response is not going to work unless we dominate the streets,” Barr said.
“Adequate force” was apparenly taken soon after Barr’s tour when police cleared Lafayette Square. Images on social media showed police with shields pushing protestors and firing tear gas, while demonstrators carried injured protestors away. The protestors were cleared so Trump could visit nearby St. John’s Church.
The president urged governors to deploy the National Guard, which he credited with helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis and demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced a spasm of violence, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Between the protests and the response to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Guard has been deployed at its highest level in recent history, surpassing the number of troops sent to the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More than 66,700 soldiers and airman have been activated — 45,000 to assist with the pandemic and more than 17,000 to help with the protests.
Barr’s tour also comes quickly results were released Monday from two separate autopsies declared the May 25 death of Floyd at the hands of police to be a homicide.
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Attorneys for Floyd’s family released the results of an independent autopsy report Monday afternoon showing that Floyd’s death was caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.
The family’s attorney, Ben Crump, announced the autopsy results during an afternoon news conference. Crump said the autopsy found the compression cut off blood to Floyd’s brain, and weight on his back made it hard to breathe.
Another autopsy, conducted by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office, stated that Floyd died from “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual restraint, and neck compression” while being restrained, Fox 9 reported. Its updated results went public Monday evening.
Fox News’ Vandana Rambaran and The Associated Press contributed to this report.