CLAIM: President Joe Biden claimed former President Donald Trump had tear-gassed peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square in order to have a photo-op with a Bible.

VERDICT: False. This claim has been debunked several times. In June 2021, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Interior released a report that exonerated Trump from claims that he had used tear gas on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square in June 2020 while taking part in a photo-op at a church.

In his claim, Biden questioned what Trump “would have done if black Americans had stormed the Capitol” on January 6, 2021.

“What do you think he would’ve done on January 6 if black Americans had stormed the … think about this,” Biden said at a campaign event in Philadelphia. “What do you think would have happened if black Americans had stormed the Capitol? I don’t think he’d be talking about pardons. This is the same guy who wanted to tear gas you as you peacefully protested George Floyd’s murder.”

President Joe Biden speaks at the 156th National Memorial Day observance on May 27, 2024. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrats and several members of the media falsely claimed that Trump used tear gas on peaceful protesters to clear the park for a photo shoot. At the time, Biden falsely claimed that Trump had held the Bible “upside down.”

The report from the inspector general confirmed Trump and former Attorney General William Barr’s version of events that took place that day:

Protests began in and around Lafayette Park on May 29, 2020. On May 30, the USPP [U.S. Park Police] and U.S. Secret Service established a unified command to coordinate the law enforcement response to the protests. From May 30 to 31, at least 49 USPP officers were injured while policing the protests, and Federal and private property was vandalized.

On the morning of June 1, the Secret Service procured antiscale fencing to establish a more secure perimeter around Lafayette Park that was to be delivered and installed that same day. The USPP, in coordination with the Secret Service, determined that it was necessary to clear protesters from the area in and around the park to enable the contractor’s employees to safely install the fence. The USPP planned to implement the operation as soon as the fencing materials and sufficient law enforcement officers arrived at the park. Six other law enforcement agencies assisted the USPP and the Secret Service in the operation to clear and secure areas near the park.

The operation began at 6:23 p.m. and was completed by 6:50 p.m. Shortly thereafter, at 7:01 p.m., President Trump walked from the White House through Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church. At 7:30 p.m., the contractor began assembling and installing the antiscale fence and completed the work by approximately 12:30 a.m. on June 2.

“We did not obtain evidence suggesting that the USPP cleared Lafayette Park so the President could visit St. John’s Church,” the report adds.

Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow wrote in his book, Breaking the News: Exposing the Establishment Media’s Hidden Deals and Secret Corruption, that after Trump decided to take a “short walk from the White House across Lafayette Square to the church,” it became a “brief obsession” for the news media.

President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John’s Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2020. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Marlow writes that the “Democrat Media Complex, as they so often do, wildly exaggerated the law enforcement response, stating that they had used tear gas on peaceful protesters”:

On June 1, 2020, President Trump took a short walk from the White House across Lafayette Square to the church, which also became a brief media obsession. In order to clear a path for the president and a select few members of his administration, the police took relatively extreme measures to disperse a group of protesters so that POTUS and his coterie could pass. (Lafayette Square is a common location for political protests and gatherings and has become a main rallying point for Black Lives Matter activism in D.C. A few days later, Mayor Muriel Bowser would create Black Lives Matter Plaza just north of the square.) The Democrat Media Complex, as they so often do, wildly exaggerated the law enforcement response, stating that they had used tear gas on peaceful protesters. Jake Tapper’s CNN show featured a chyron at the bottom of the screen that said “Peaceful Protesters Tear Gassed for Trump Church Photo-Op.”

Some other examples of how the events were described by prominent media and Democrat figures:

Elizabeth Warren: “The President of the United States tear-gassed peaceful protestors.”

Joe Biden: “He’s using the American military against the American people.”

Hillary Clinton: “Tonight the President of the United States used the American military to shoot peaceful protestors with rubber bullets & tear gas them.”

CNN’s Oliver Darcy: “…[P]eaceful protesters just had rubber bullets and teargas shot at them so the President could have that photo op.”

Podcast host and Obama bro Jon Favreau: “The President had peaceful protesters shot with tear gas and rubber bullets so he could get his picture taken.”

Kamala Harris: “Donald Trump just tear-gassed peaceful protesters for a photo op.”

Marlow adds that “not one of these statements was retracted” even after it was reported that the “Park Police said they deployed canisters, not tear gas.” Protesters gathered were also warned several times to leave the area and threw water bottles at law enforcement officers.

Police hold a perimeter at Lafayette Square near the White House as demonstrators gather to protest the killing of George Floyd on June 2, 2020, in Washington, DC. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

From a statement put out by the USPP:

As many of the protestors became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, and attempted to grab officers’ weapons, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls. No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park.

The report from the inspector general added that tear gas was used, but by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, under Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser. Bowser has defended the use of tear gas on protesters.

Biden and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) have on several occasions repeated the claim that peaceful protesters were tear-gassed near the White House.

The day after the January 6 riot at the Capitol, Biden again claimed that Trump had cleared the park full of protesters with “tear gas” and had held the Bible “upside down.”