New Photos Contradict Donald Trump’s Claim That Tear Gas Wasn’t Used To Clear Protesters

Law enforcement responds during a protest near Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump's trip to St. John's Church on June 1, 2020 in downtown Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Donald Trump and the White House claimed on Wednesday that no tear gas or rubber bullets were used to clear out the peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., for the president’s photo-op at the St. John’s church. But as The Daily Beast reports, local news crews gathered the spent canisters of a gas designed to cause a “burning sensation, heavy flow of tears, involuntary closing of eyes.”

WUSA9 crews showed images of canisters of CM Spede Heat CS and CM Skat Shell OC short-range rounds, both collected at Lafayette Square. The canisters contain oleoresin capsicum, a chemical derived from chili peppers, and/or 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, an ingredient used to make tear gas.

The CDC calls these kinds of compounds riot control agents, or tear gas.

“Riot control agents (sometimes referred to as ‘tear gas’) are chemical compounds that temporarily make people unable to function by causing irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin,” the CDC states.

It notes that 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile is one of the most common agents used.

Trump claimed on Tuesday that reports of tear gas being used to disperse the crowd gathered to protest police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody, was “fake news.”

“Media Falsely Claimed Violent Riots Were Peaceful And That Tear Gas Was Used Against Rioters,” he wrote, linking to the Federalist article featuring the title, “Fake News is hurting our Country so badly. Don’t burn down churches. This article is a must read!”

White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany also pushed back on claims that tear gas was used, but the spent canisters back up claims from witnesses and people who were present when the gas was deployed.

“I was literally helping wipe away tears in people’s eyes and tried to tend to them and help them on the grounds,” said Gini Gerbasi, a former rector at St. John’s church.

Police could be seen wearing masks, presumably in part to protect them from the chemical irritants that were present not only in the canisters, but also in the pepper bullets that law enforcement admits to using.

The crowd was cleared so that Trump could pose in front of the church while holding a Bible, though he didn’t offer any words or prayer.

Park Police maintain that they don’t carry the CM Skat Shell OC canisters, but didn’t address the CM Spede Heat CS canisters. They have stated that they used irritant-free smoke canisters and pepper balls.