U.S. Park Police officers used excessive force against two Australian journalists while clearing a protest near the White House nearly three years ago, the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General said Wednesday.
In a report, the IG concluded that one officer violated policy by using his baton to strike a retreating reporter who did not pose a threat.
The IG said the second officer had complied with policy by using his shield to control a cinematographer because it was “objectively reasonable,” but that the same officer had not employed the “minimum level of reasonable force” when he later pushed the journalist’s camera.
The IG’s office said it had sent its report finding the officers violated Park Police policy to National Park Service Director Chuck Sams “for any action deemed appropriate.”
The attack on June 1, 2020, led to a congressional investigation and angered the Australian government, which requested an investigation after the incident aired on live television.
The journalists were covering a protest near Lafayette Square that grew violent shortly before then-President Donal Trump walked across the street to pose for photographs in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
The protest was sparked by the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd on Memorial Day of 2020. He died when a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s throat for nearly nine minutes. After Floyd’s death, protesters demonstrated against police across the country, with a series of protests held in Lafayette Square near the White House.
While the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia declined to prosecute the two officers after reviewing a report from the Park Police’s Internal Affairs Unit, the issue then went to the IG’s office for an administrative investigation.
Both officers had been reassigned shortly after the incident.
At the time, then-acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan defended the work of his officers, saying protesters were throwing projectiles, including bricks and frozen water bottles. He said officers responded with pepper spray and smoke canisters to clear the crowd.
Then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked for an investigation of the Park Police after he saw correspondent Amelia Brace and photojournalist Tim Myers attacked while doing their live newscast on Australia’s 7News program “Sunrise.”
The video showed one officer hitting Myers in the chest with his riot shield and another swinging a police baton to strike Brace. Both journalists were pinned against a wall at the time, trying to escape.
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