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National Guard officer to tell Congress tear gas was used against D.C. protesters

An Army National Guard officer who was in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on June 1 when law enforcement forcibly removed anti-racism protesters from the park is disputing the White House and Attorney General William Barr's accounts of what happened that evening.

Adam DeMarco is a major in the D.C. National Guard and an Iraq War veteran; in 2018, he ran for Congress as a Democrat but did not win his primary. He is set to appear Tuesday before the House Natural Resources Committee, where he will describe what he says he witnessed inside Lafayette Square. The committee is investigating federal law enforcement's response to the protesters, which included firing projectiles at them. After the demonstrators were cleared out, President Trump walked into the park and took photographs outside of St. John's Episcopal Church while holding a Bible.

Acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan has said the protesters were pushed out because they were being violent, and his department has denied using tear gas against the demonstrators. DeMarco said in a statement posted online Monday that the protesters were "behaving peacefully," and tear gas was deployed in an "excessive use of force." He said he knew it was tear gas because it irritated his eyes and nose, and he later found used canisters in the street.

On June 1, D.C. was under a 7 p.m. curfew, but law enforcement began clearing the park out at around 6 p.m. Monahan has claimed protesters were moved out so a fence could be erected, but DeMarco will testify that the fencing materials did not arrive at the park until 9 p.m. and the barrier wasn't finished until later that night.

He will also say that about 30 minutes before the protesters were cleared out, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley arrived at Lafayette Square with Barr and told DeMarco to "ensure that National Guard personnel remained calm, adding that we were there to respect the demonstrators' First Amendment rights." Milley later apologized for going to the park, saying his presence "created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics."