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A U.S. Secret Service officer stands inside the fence at the White House as demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd on May 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Brandon) A U.S. Secret Service officer stands inside the fence at the White House as demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd on May 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Brandon)

A U.S. Secret Service officer stands inside the fence at the White House as demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd on May 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Brandon)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy June 1, 2020

Trump falsely claims DC mayor kept police from White House protests

If Your Time is short

  • The U.S. Secret Service said the District of Columbia’s police, the Metropolitan Police Department, were “on the scene” during protests at the White House.

  • Mayor Muriel Bowser said, “No one needed to ask the Metropolitan Police Department to get involved because we were already involved.”

  • The district’s police chief said the department provided Secret Service officers with equipment, including helmets.

As protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis reached the White House, President Donald Trump falsely claimed that the mayor of Washington, D.C., refused to let the district’s police support the U.S. Secret Service outside the White House and in nearby Lafayette Park.

"The D.C. Mayor, @MurielBowser, who is always looking for money & help, wouldn’t let the D.C. Police get involved," Trump tweeted May 30. "‘Not their job.’ Nice!"

The attack on Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, came hours after demonstrations that began May 29. 

Similar protests, focused on the long list of black men who have died from fatal run-ins with law enforcement, have continued across the country in recent days. Floyd, 46, died after a white officer kneeled on his neck for minutes following his arrest.

The district’s police — the Metropolitan Police Department — were assisting the uniformed Secret Service officers during the May 29 protests, despite Trump’s claims.

The Secret Service contradicted Trump roughly four hours after his tweet. In a statement on the night’s demonstrations, the agency said it made six arrests as some protesters clashed with officers and tried to knock over barriers on Pennsylvania Avenue.

"The Metropolitan Police Department and U.S. Park Police were on the scene," the agency said.

Bowser held a press conference later that day. "My police department in Washington, D.C., will always protect D.C. and all who live and visit here," she said, echoing comments she had made on Twitter after Trump’s attack. "In fact, that is exactly what we did yesterday and last night."

"No one needed to ask the Metropolitan Police Department to get involved because we were already involved," she continued. "Our police were doing their jobs from the start. D.C. police supported uniformed Secret Service last night like we have done literally dozens of times at Lafayette Park."

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Bowser said the district’s police were coordinating with the Secret Service and U.S. Park Police throughout the night on May 29 and into the early morning on May 30.

The night’s protests included more than 1,000 people at their peak, and a much smaller number remained in Lafayette Park until 3:45 a.m. on May 30, said district police chief Peter Newsham. 

The White House and Lafayette Park, Newsham noted, are under federal jurisdiction and managed by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police. But the district police stay in communication with both agencies and often work in tandem to manage major protests.

When large-scale demonstrations do take place, the district police establish a "unified command" with other local and federal law enforcement agencies to "collectively make decisions on how to proceed," Newsham said.

"All of the decisions that are made in an instance like this (are) made in a unified command. A collective decision was made on how to proceed," Newsham said. "That’s the way we handled it last night and early this morning."

The Metropolitan Police Department did not specifically station officers as part of the line of Secret Service officers guarding the White House, Newsham said, although some of the department’s leaders working with the unified command might have been behind that line. 

The Metropolitan Police Department also provided Secret Service officers with equipment that they didn’t have, including helmets, Newsham said.

Reporters at the scene noted a visible district police presence at the city’s protests, as well.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Our ruling

Trump said that during protests outside the White House on May 29 and into May 30, Bowser "wouldn't let the D.C. Police get involved."

That’s wrong, and Trump offered no evidence to support the attack. The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington coordinated with the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Park Police and also provided some equipment, including helmets.

The district’s police were "on the scene," the Secret Service said.

We rate Trump’s statement Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Donald J. Trump on Twitter, May 30, 2020

U.S. Secret Service on Twitter, May 30, 2020

Muriel Bowser on Twitter, May 30, 2020

Mayor Muriel Bowser on Twitter, May 30, 2020

Council of DC on Twitter, May 30, 2020

Perry Stein on Twitter, May 30, 2020

DC Mayor’s Office on YouTube, "Mayor Bowser Holds Media Availability, 5/30/20," May 30, 2020

The Washington Post, "Trump’s lie about Bowser was exposed as soon as it left his mouth," May 31, 2020

The Washington Post, "Tension between police and protesters flares in front of the White House before vandalism and sporadic fires," May 31, 2020

CBS News, "Trump rips White House protesters, says 'vicious dogs' were ready," May 30, 2020

Vox, "Trump’s claim that DC police didn’t protect the White House from protesters is false," May 30, 2020

DCist, "Bowser Calls Trump’s Comments An ‘Attack On Black America,’ Says D.C. Police Responded To Protest," May 30, 2020

The Associated Press via Snopes, "Trump Claims Protesters in DC Risked Facing ‘Vicious Dogs,'" May 30, 2020

The Washington Post via Stars and Stripes, "Trump says DC police refused to help Secret Service at demonstration, but officers were there," May 30, 2020

 

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