The top Democratic lawmakers in Congress roundly denounced President Trump’s Rose Garden speech and trip to St. John’s Episcopal Church amid growing unrest over George Floyd’s death.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement Monday night condemning Trump’s remarks, during which he threatened to send military troops to combat riots. Ahead of his address, authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators so the president could walk to the city’s historic church, which has been the site of some damage from the protests.
“Across our country, Americans are protesting for an end to the pattern of racial injustice and brutality we saw most recently in the murder of George Floyd,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “Yet, at a time when our country cries out for unification, this President is ripping it apart. Tear-gassing peaceful protestors without provocation just so that the President could pose for photos outside a church dishonors every value that faith teaches us.”
“At this challenging time, our nation needs real leadership. The President’s continued fanning of the flames of discord, bigotry and violence is cowardly, weak and dangerous,” the lawmakers added, calling the church visit a “photo-op.”
Prior to the crowd in the path from the White House to St. John’s being controversially cleared, Attorney General William Barr was seen watching the events unfold from behind security nearby.
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., Rev. Mariann Budde, objected to Trump’s visit to the church and said the White House did not consult her diocese about the move.
“Let me be clear. The president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese without permission as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for,” Budde said, noting that she opposes the use of tear gas by law enforcement to clear the path for Trump.
The protests, which started in Minneapolis, Minnesota, almost a week ago come after video was released that showed Floyd, an unarmed black man, being pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer. Floyd could be heard pleading with Chauvin to allow him to breathe as he slowly lost consciousness. Even after becoming unresponsive, Chauvin could be seen digging his knee into Floyd’s neck for almost three minutes longer. Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.