Protest wasn't cleared for Trump photo op - report

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media captionTrump was seen walking in an area that had just been dispersed by police

US Park Police did not disperse racial justice protesters in Washington last year so that then-President Donald Trump could pose for photos, a report has found.

Officers used chemical irritant and rubber bullets to clear Lafayette Park on 1 June.

Those present were protesting against the police killing of George Floyd.

Soon after, Mr Trump posed for photographs holding a Bible outside the nearby St John's Episcopal Church.

The episode was heavily criticised by religious leaders and senior Democrats, who accused him of using a church building and the Bible for partisan political purposes.

But the report, conducted by the Interior Office, said US Park Police (USPP) officers cleared the area in order for anti-scale fencing to be installed by contractors.

Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt said they "had begun implementing the operational plan several hours before they knew of a potential Presidential visit to the park".

The report focused on how and when police made the decision to clear the park, and did not investigate allegations of individual use-of-force incidents.

It found that three warnings had been issued to those at the park, but acknowledged that some people may not have heard the warning and that the warning did not tell people how to exit the area.

Mr Trump praised the "professionally written report" on Wednesday, and thanked Mr Greenblatt for "exonerating" him.

"Our fine Park Police made the decision to clear the park to allow a contractor to safely install anti-scale fencing to protect from Antifa rioters, radical BLM protesters and other violent demonstrators who are causing chaos and death to our cities," he added.

He was referring to the left-wing, anti-fascist and anti-racist political movement, and the Black Lives Matter social movement.

What happened at Lafayette Square?

Demonstrators had gathered in the park near the White House for days as part of mass protests against police brutality and racism in the US, following the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd.

Police moved in to clear them about 30 minutes before a city-wide curfew went into effect - and just as Mr Trump began a televised speech from the White House Rose Garden.

After his speech, Mr Trump walked to the church, the basement of which had been set on fire the previous day, and posed with the Bible.

Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said: "Seeing President Trump standing in front of St John's Episcopal Church while holding a Bible in response to calls for racial justice - right after using military force to clear peaceful protesters - is one of the most flagrant misuses of religion that I have ever seen."

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