Religious leaders ‘outraged’ over Trump photo op at D.

WATCH: Shortly after addressing the nation on Monday night, U.S. President Donald Trump walked from the White House to St. John's Church across from Lafayette Park. The 200-year-old church near the White House that was set on fire as demonstrators clashed with police over the weekend. Law enforcement cleared protesters out of the area with tear gas before Trump's visit.

After promising to deploy the U.S. military against protesters angry over the killing of unarmed Black people, President Donald Trump made his way to a historic Washington, D.C., church for a photo op where he held up a Bible and posed with members of his administration.

But moments before Trump’s journey to St. John’s Church, which lies right across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, police cleared a crowd of largely peaceful protesters using tear gas and other means of force — prompting outrage from religious leaders and politicians.

Trump visited the 200-year-old church a day after a small fire caused damage to its basement during ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody on May 25, which have spread from Minneapolis across the country and beyond.

The president held up a Bible and posed for photos at the front entrance with Attorney General Bill Barr, Defence Secretary Mark Esper and other administration officials, all of them white.

He did not go inside the church, instead returning to the White House without further mention of Floyd or the protests.

“We have a great country,” Trump said as he posed for photos. “Greatest country in the world.”

The Associated Press reported that just before Trump’s remarks in the Rose Garden, a mass of law enforcement, including U.S. Secret Service agents, Park Police and National Guardsmen, began advancing toward the protesters in Lafayette Park as many held up their hands, saying, “Don’t shoot.”

Soon, law enforcement officers were aggressively forcing the protesters back, firing tear gas and deploying flash bangs into the crowd to disperse them.

The sounds of exploding canisters could be heard while Trump spoke of law and order, declaring himself “an ally of all peaceful protesters” before demanding that governors across the nation deploy the National Guard “in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.”

Trump concluded his remarks by saying he was leaving “to pay my respects to a very, very special place.”

Despite rarely attending church, Trump has prayed at St. John’s, as all sitting presidents have for decades.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, who oversees the Episcopal Diocese of Washington that includes St. Johns, issued a statement that called the combination of Trump’s photo op and the actions of police “antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for.”

“I am outraged,” she said.

“The President did not pray when he came to St. Johns; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of system racism and white supremacy in our country.”

“In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation,” Budde added. Instead, she aligned herself and her diocese “with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd.”

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, issued his own statement decrying Trump’s use of the church and the Bible “for partisan political purposes.”

Trending Stories

  • George Floyd: What we know about the arrest, video and investigation

  • ‘Bunker Boy’: Trump mocked for ‘hiding’ from protesters at White House

“This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us,” said Curry, who is the first African American to hold that leadership post for U.S. Episcopalians.

Rabbi Jack Moline, the president of Interfaith Alliance, called the move “one of the most flagrant misuses of religion I have ever seen” in a statement.

“This only underscores the president’s complete lack of compassion for Black Americans and the lethal consequences of racism.”

Earlier Monday, Biden also posted pictures of himself talking with Black activists and community leaders. One, taken inside a church, was posted with the words, “Leaders listen.”

“Tear-gassing peaceful protesters without provocation just so that the President could pose for photos outside a church dishonours every value that faith teaches us,” they said.

“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.”

Judd Deere, the White House’s deputy press secretary, said in a statement that law enforcement’s actions at Lafayette Park were lawful and intended to enforce the capital’s 7 p.m. curfew, which Trump announced during his remarks.

“The perimeter was expanded to help enforce the city’s 7 p.m. curfew in the same area where rioters attempted to burn down one of our nation’s most historic churches the night before,” Deere said.

“Protesters were given three warnings by the U.S. Park Police.”

Budde told the Associated Press that the church’s “suffering was minimal” compared to the damage to businesses during the sometimes violent protests. Still, she said the goals of the protesters were worth hearing and taking seriously.

“We can rebuild the church. We can replace the furnishings of a nursery,” she said, referring to the damaged area. “We can’t bring a man’s life back.”

Floyd’s death while pinned under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee has sparked protests that have now enveloped the U.S. and several international cities for a week.

Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, the man seen on cellphone video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, has been charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder, but activists are demanding charges against the other three officers involved, who were also fired.

Protesters have also denounced the police-involved fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, in her Louisville, Ky., apartment on March 13; and the February killing of Ahmaud Arbery by two white vigilantes in Georgia, who were only arrested and charged after video of the shooting surfaced in April.

— With files from the Associated Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Related news

Donald Trump Ally Roger Stone Still A Criminal: Robert Mueller.

Donald Trump may have commuted Roger Stone's prison sentence but the president's longtime ally remains a convicted criminal, former special counsel Robert Mueller said Saturday.

China’s CanSino in talks for large-scale trial of potential coronavirus vaccine overseas.

There are no approved vaccines yet for COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has killed more than half a million people globally.

Mueller defends Russia probe, says Roger Stone ‘remains a convicted felon, and rightly so’.

The op-ed in The Washington Post marked Mueller's first public statement on his investigation since his congressional appearance last July.

Coronavirus: Trump wears face mask for first time during a public appearance.

As he left the White House, he told reporters: "When you're in a hospital, especially ... I think it's expected to wear a mask."

Donald Trump Wears Face Mask In Public For First Time.

US President Donald Trump wore a face mask in public for the first time Saturday, finally yielding to intense pressure to set a public health example as the coronavirus rampages across America.

By continuing to browse World News (UAZMI), you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and agree to the use of cookies