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George Floyd protests

William Barr defends forceful removal of protesters before Trump's visit to St. John's Church

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday defended the way peaceful protesters were cleared from Lafayette Square near the White House on Monday, saying they were becoming "increasingly unruly" before being pushed out.

Security personnel used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, shortly before President Trump walked over to stand in front of St. John's Church. Barr, who has been leading the federal response to the protests against the death of George Floyd, said he did not know Trump was going to visit the church when the decision was made to clear out the protesters.

"The president is the head of the executive branch and the chief executive of the nation and should be able to walk across the street to the church of presidents," he said. "I don't necessarily view that as a political act." Barr accompanied Trump to St. John's Church, and said he did so at the president's behest. "I think it was appropriate for us to go over with him," he added.