President Trump has caused new controversy for his handling of a protest near the White House Monday night. Police began clearing people out from a peaceful demonstration in Lafayette Square before the citywide curfew took effect, firing gas with no apparent provocation. Trump then walked to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photograph. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.
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Our Yamiche Alcindor has been out reporting around the White House yesterday and today, and she joins me now.
Hello, Yamiche. I know you are just now a few blocks from the White House.
Tell us more about what you witnessed yesterday and what you're learning from your sources about how President Trump thinks he's handling all of this.
Well, President Trump is determined to show dominance over the protests that are gripping this nation, and the president yesterday enacted a surreal scene outside the White House.
I was standing, listening to the president deliver his Rose Garden remarks on my cell phone. And I looked up, and there were officers going toward peaceful protesters. And they used some sort of gas, a chemical component, possibly tear gas, that started my eyes tearing up, that started me choking.
And what I saw was protesters running for — all over the place, trying to get away from law enforcement that was showing an incredible degree of aggression. The president says that he wants people to understand that they can't just be everywhere that they want to be and that he — and that people should know that this government is going to be one of law and order.
The Park Police say protesters were throwing frozen water bottles and other objects at police.
But I should say, Judy, I did not see that. What I saw were peaceful protesters gathering. And, of course, I learned later that the president did that to clear the streets, so that he could take a walk to St. John's Church.
Of course, the church — bishop that oversees that church said that she was outraged that President Trump did that and that he used the church as a photo-op.
The White House today is saying that it's wrong to call it a photo-op. But, in fact, of course, President Trump did walk to that church to show a Bible and to take pictures and then walk away.
So, the president here showing that he is willing to move physically law-abiding citizens out of the way in order to take a walk and show the optics to the nation that he wants to show.
In fact, we talked to the bishop of the Episcopal Church a short time ago. We're going to be hearing that in a little bit on the "NewsHour."
But, Yamiche, you have been out there covering these protests for several days. What are you hearing from the protesters themselves?
Well, President Trump has said over and over again that these protesters are — are largely domestic terrorists who don't want to see democracy in America, when, in fact, what I have seen is Americans who are demanding change.
These are largely law-abiding citizens who say that they want to peacefully protest, but they also want to demand change from their government.
I'm thinking of Julien. She was a mother of four who came out here yesterday and spoke to me and said that she's here because of the lives of your children. She's scared that her children might get killed by the police because they're African-American.
Or a young man that I talked to just a few moments ago who brought his son out here. And he said: "The reason why I'm out here is because of the first 30 years of my life and the next 30 years of my son's life."
And just quickly, Yamiche, the president himself says he wants to see injustices corrected.
What do you know about specific plans the White House has to address policing and some of these other issues?
Right now, the president has not made clear what his plans are to deal with policing. Instead, today, he signed an executive order on religious freedom. He has not so far said that — what he would do to affect policing.
Yesterday, in the Rose Garden, he spoke for seven minutes and didn't utter the word policing.
What I do know is that there's possibly a task force being formed by the White House that might be headed up by HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
The other thing I should note is that what's complicating the president's solution of this is that there are a lot of African-Americans in this country, including protesters, who told me that they see the president as racist and don't think that he has the credibility to start a conversation or to enact any sort of legislation that would help the lives of Americans, including black Americans, people of color, and all Americans in this country.
Yamiche Alcindor reporting from just a couple of blocks from the White House tonight.