(TheLibertyRevolution.com)- The U.S. Secret Service cleared the White House press corps from the grounds on Monday night, after tensions between police and protesters escalated nearby.
The protesters in Lafayette Square were trying to bring down a statue of President Andrew Jackson in the middle of the park, but they were eventually driven away from it by police officers.
Officers from the U.S. Park Police used pepper spray against the protesters to push them back, according to a Washington Post report. It all started, apparently, when police tried to clear out tents that were set up nearby.
A spokeswoman for the National Park Service, Alexandra Picavet, said local police, the U.S. Park Police and the Secret Service worked together to “prevent the destruction of the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Park.” They also temporarily closed the park.
The protesters took to vandalizing the now-infamous St. John’s Episcopal Church. They spray painted the letters “BHAZ” on the church’s pillars. The acronym, which stands for Black House Autonomous Zone, is a reference to Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, where protesters have taken over a large area of the city and kept out police.
While this was going on outside of the White House, inside, Secret Service agents instructed journalists to leave the grounds immediately through the south side of the complex. In security situations, the press corps is normally locked down inside the White House complex.
A spokesperson for the Secret Service commented on the situation to CNN, saying:
“On Monday evening, in response to the increasingly violent demonstrations in Lafayette Park, four members of the media were misdirected by the Secret Service to leave the White House grounds. The members of the press were re-routed to exits on the south side of the complex for their own safety.”
Tensions at Lafayette Park between protesters and law enforcement have been escalating in recent weeks. Officers first cleared protesters from Lafayette Square when President Donald Trump made his way over to St. John’s Episcopal Church to take a photo in front holding a Bible.
The president was also taken to an underground bunker in the White House briefly last month as protesters got closer to the White House gates. In an email that was obtained by CNN, White House officials advised staffers to hide their security passes as they enter the White House until they reach a Secret Service entry point, and also hide them as they leave, for fear they could be bothered by the protesters.
Before the protesters tried to take down the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square Monday night, Trump said in an interview that he was against taking down all statues of historical figures. He was specifically citing a push to remove a Jackson statue in Louisiana when he said:
“So you have to understand history and you have to understand the culture and so many other aspects of our country. And people can study that and they can hate it and let’s all hate it. But you can’t take down George Washington’s statue, and half of our country is named after Washington. You can’t do it. You have to remember the heritage that — the culture of our country.”