The Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has confirmed to The Federalist that the MPD deployed tear gas on June 1, 2020, in the area of 17th and H Streets in response to “assaultive actions.”
The MPD’s Deputy Director of the Office of Communications Kristen Metzger told The Federalist that the tear gas was one of the crowd control tools deployed after individuals began throwing multiple objects at MPD officers, including “an incendiary device attack that seriously burned and scarred the limb of an MPD officer.”
In court proceedings last week, attorneys for the MPD sought dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Black Lives Matter and individual demonstrators. The plaintiffs claimed their constitutional rights had been violated by the then-Trump administration, federal officers, including the Park Service, and the MPD, when rioters were cleared from Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas.
The federal government has steadfastly maintained that it did not use the aerosolized version of the synthetic compound 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile also referred to as “CS gas,” but rather pepper balls and smoke bombs. The MPD has denied any involvement in the removal of rioters from Lafayette Park.
But in arguing for dismissal, the MPD’s brief acknowledged that the court must accept as true the plaintiffs’ allegation that tear gas had been used by the district officers outside of Lafayette Park. During a hearing last week on the MPD’s motion to dismiss, the district likewise argued that the use of tear gas would be justified.
Now, the MPD is confirming that tear gas was used by district officers outside of Lafayette Park — something it had not done in its legal filings to date. The MPD’s admission explains the divide between on-the-ground reporting of the use of tear gas and denials by the federal government of the use of tear gas to clear Lafayette Park: The evidence to date supports the federal government’s claims that it did not deploy CS tear gas on June 1, 2021, and that CS tear gas was not used to clear Lafayette Park. Traditionally, the media have delineated between pepper spray, regularly carried by civilians, often women, to protect themselves from potential predators. and tear gas, although some claim that pepper spray is tear gas.
Questions remain, however, concerning why it took a year for the district to reveal its use of tear gas, especially in light of the conflicting reporting, and the attempts to hold the Trump administration responsible for the decision.
Mollie Hemingway contributed to this report.