Lafayette Park and The Tear Gas Controversy: A Response To Professor Steve Vladeck

For over a year, I have written and testified about the investigation of what really occurred in the clearing of the Lafayette Park. Much of this debate has focused on the motive behind the federal operation. University of Texas professor and CNN contributor Steve Vladeck is one of those who insisted publicly that Barr ordered federal officers “to forcibly clear protestors in Lafayette Park to achieve a photo op for Trump.”  After I discussed new developments in court over the protests yesterday, Vladeck lashed out to accuse me of being one of Trump’s defenders and a “tear gas” denier in the Lafayette Park controversy.  Since that tweet got traction with some on social media, I wanted to lay out the actual facts on the tear gas controversy.

Yesterday, I noted that the D.C. government is in court seeking to dismiss a lawsuit by Black Lives Matter and other litigants over the protests around Lafayette Park. The District now admits that it used tear gas against protesters that night to enforce the curfew imposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser. The Bowser Administration claims that the use of such tear gas was reasonable.  I will be discussing that change today in a column.

In response to my posting of the news article, Vladeck wrote “Just a reminder that Turley was one of the many defenders of Trump pushing the ‘it wasn’t tear gas’ baloney.”

“Just as a reminder”, Vladeck left out a few salient facts.

First, I denounced the level of force used in Lafayette Park on that very night. Moreover, not long after the operation, I also testified in Congress to call for an investigation and laid out areas of specific inquiry for the House, including whether federal officers used tear gas. However, confirming the use of tear gas versus pepper balls is not material because I criticized the use of force even if pepper balls were used.

Second, I did make what I described as a “lesser point” over what irritant was technically used in the federal operation. It is clear that pepper balls were used. You can see the use of pepper balls in the videotapes that were played on television. However, not only did I publicly discuss countervailing allegations of the use of tear gas by the Trump Administration, I consistently noted that it does not matter legally or practically. That month, I repeated this point in my testimony:

If the government is found to have told the truth about providing warnings and a reasonable opportunity for dispersal, there remains the question of the means used for the clearing operation. On this point, there is a factual dispute over the use of what witnesses described as “tear gas.” Attorney General Barr has said that he did not give the order to disperse the crowd but supported the decision made by Park Police to use dispersal tactics if necessary. He and the Park Police insisted that no tear gas or “OC Skat shells” were used in the operation as opposed to smoke canisters and pepper balls, though a spokesman later said that pepper spray has the same effect as tear gas. The debate has turned into a debate over the colloquial versus technical uses of the term “tear gas,” which may not be determinative to our analysis. Officials insist that they did not deploy CN and CS (or 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile products), defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the “most common” forms of tear gases. The government refers to “pepper spray” as a “riot control agent.” One photo purportedly shows a clearly labeled “Skat Shell OC.”22 Oleoresin Capsicum refers to an irritant derived from pepper plants but it has the same effect of what people associate with tear gas. Congress should be able to confirm if the Park Police has misrepresented the devices used in the operation. However, the agencies have continued to maintain, including in communications with Congress, that no tear gas was used in the operation.

For the purposes of legal analysis, the technical distinction may prove less important to the conclusions. Courts often group the use of tear gas and pepper spray together in court orders.

Third, I did not defend Trump over Lafayette Park. I condemned the photo op and said that Trump was “rightfully criticized” for it. (Vladeck refuses to acknowledge the distinction between defending legal principles as opposed to individuals in controversies, a common attack against civil libertarians. As shown in numerous columns on this blog, I have long been a critic of Trump. Indeed, even in my impeachment testimony, I noted that past opposition. My objections were based on the constitutional standard of impeachment).

Ultimately, the admission that the District used tear gas near the park does not confirm the use in the federal operation. The MPD admitted to using tear gas nearby to enforce Bowser’s curfew. Bowser has long insisted that the District did not assist in the clearing of the park. The clearing operation began before the curfew and the District admits it used tear gas to enforce the curfew. I am not aware of a change in the position of the Justice Department that pepper balls rather than tear gas was used in the federal operation.

The problem presented by misleading comments like Vladeck’s is that it takes far more words to refute than to state. That is why I often do not respond. However, as academics, we should strive to be not just fair but accurate in such commentary. Yet, rather than deal with the surprising admission of District, the impulse is to launch another ad hominem attack. The incident reveals how rage has corrupted our capacity for civil and honest debate, even as academics.


76 thoughts on “Lafayette Park and The Tear Gas Controversy: A Response To Professor Steve Vladeck”

  1. Turley sure loves parsing semantics when it comes to denying what he is accused of.

    “ However, confirming the use of tear gas versus pepper balls is not material because I criticized the use of force even if pepper balls were used.”

    He relates the use of the word “force” as an umbrella term for anything used during the riot including tear gas which he explicitly detailed during his ‘analysis’ of the event as a chemical irritant i.e. tear gas.

    He didn’t want to be so clear as to upset his Fox News readers and employer as being overly critical of what happened.

    Turley further claims he did not defend Trump, but he did. His excuse is that he SAID trump WAS criticized. He didn’t explicitly say it himself. He’s paraphrasing others of saying it as proof that he “criticized” Trump. That’s just a plain disingenuous attempt a refutation. It’s a poor one to say the least.

  2. Politicians are nothing but a huge rolling photo op. Clearing the park, and shanghaiing some others to participate with him, seems small potatoes to past actions of high level govt officials. Hell, the entire CDC response to covid is nothing but a photo op to get rid of President Trump. In the process, untold thousands died because making things worse was worth it to achieve the goal.

  3. I absolutely loved the photo of President Trump holding up the Bible at the historic Episcopalian Church. He looked like a true leader………These statements make me truly label-worthy.
    But, before I’m branded, remind me of how many wives were beheaded and/or divorced by the Church of England’s ” founder”, a helluva guy, by the way.

    1. I like many thought it looked very fitting, …him standing there frowning holding the Bible upside down….

      “Fate it would seem, is not without a sense of irony….” – Morpheus

      1. Jo……I LOVED that the Bible was accidentally upside down. …..very endearing, very real, very Trump.

        You mentioned “irony” (via Morpheus) . How about the fact that even though the white Episcopal Church in America has a black bishop, the black Episcopalians are still separate ——the Union of Black Episcopalians, founded 53 years ago.

  4. I have a more fundamental question: why was the park cleared, other than as a photo op for Trump? Those cleared were Episcopalian clergy and seminarians, and they were there to provide bottled water and snacks to protesters. Trump did have the way cleared for a fake photo-op in front of the church, which is as hypocritical as it gets. Trump is not religious, and certainly not a member of the congregation. Whether tear gas was or wasn’t used isn’t the point. Turley: is your friendship for Barr getting in the way?

  5. “After I discussed new developments in court over the protests yesterday, Vladeck lashed out to accuse me of being one of Trump’s defenders and a “tear gas” denier in the Lafayette Park controversy. Since that tweet got traction with some on social media, I wanted to lay out the actual facts on the tear gas controversy.”

    Unsurprising that JT neither quotes nor links to what he says is Vladeck “lashing out.”

    Here’s the tweet, which simply says “Just a reminder that Turley was one of the many defenders of Trump pushing the “it wasn’t tear gas” baloney.” and copying a June, 2020 tweet thread from JT that starts off “Despite the debunking of the photo op claim, most stories remain uncorrected. For example, NPR’s story still declares “Peaceful Protesters Tear-Gassed To Clear Way For Trump Church Photo-Op.” (btw, on a lesser point, pepper spray not tear gas was used )…” —

    JT might be a wee bit oversensitive to call that “lashing out.”

    “‘Just as a reminder,’ Vladeck left out a few salient facts.”

    He linked to your entire original tweet thread. Either your thread included those “salient facts” (in which case he didn’t leave them out, since he linked to them), or it didn’t (in which case it’s odd to criticize him for leaving out facts that you also left out).

    1. “Just a reminder that Turley was one of the many defenders of Trump pushing the “it wasn’t tear gas” baloney.”

      JT made it clear that tear gas wasn’t used. I wonder if Anonymous the Stupid is saying tear gas was used when it wasn’t. Accuracy is not a significant feature in the responses by Anonymous the Stupid. I don’t know who is right.

      If JT was wrong, then Anonymous the Stupid should have directly stated tear gas was used. We know that Anonymous the Stupid makes his statements intentionally vague. He believes that along with total anonymity, he needs to have fake wiggle room. To sum things up, all of this means is that ATS is not honest and therefore not credible.

  6. “Lafayette Park and The Tear Gas Controversy: A Response To Professor Steve Vladeck”

    – Professor Turley

    I fully grasp the effect and import of the “Lafayette Park” episode.

    I cannot comprehend, however, how the momentousness, the treason, of the Obama Coup D’etat in America hasn’t eclipsed this, and every other TDS outbreak and demo-crazy act, since President Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy.

    If he isn’t stopped, Obama, the direct and mortal enemy of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and America itself, will take over the entire country on behalf of his counselor and mentor, Karl Marx, and “Lafayette Park” will be long forgotten.

    The Obama Coup D’etat in America is the most egregious abuse of power and the most prodigious crime in American political history.

    The co-conspirators are:

    Kevin Clinesmith, Bill Taylor, Eric Ciaramella, Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Andrew Weissmann,

    James Comey, Christopher Wray, McCabe, Strozk, Page, Laycock, Kadzic,

    Sally Yates, James Baker, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan, Campbell,

    Sir Richard Dearlove, Christopher Steele, Simpson, Joseph Mifsud,

    Alexander Downer, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper, Azra Turk, Kerry, Hillary,

    Huma, Mills, Brennan, Gina Haspel, Clapper, Lerner, Farkas, Power, Lynch,

    Rice, Jarrett, Holder, Brazile, Sessions (patsy), Nadler, Schiff, Pelosi, Obama,

    Joe Biden, James E. Boasberg, Emmet Sullivan, et al.

  7. Please see Justice Holmes comment at 8:12 am. He tells us that the protests in Lafayette Park were peaceful so crowd control was not necessary. He conveniently forgets a church burning by the peaceful protesters. Here’s a little tidbit of news from one of Justice Holmes favorite news agencies. Does JusticeHolmes want to see more of these peaceful protests?

    1. Thinkitthrough, I replied to “Justice” Holmes at about 8;15 because I wanted to point out how absurd his comment was. I am so glad that someone else picked up on it as well thanks!

    2. The fire at the church was the day before.

      The day of Trump’s visit, members of the church were forced to leave the church property because of Trump’s photo op.

      Details, details.

      A timeline of events with references –

  8. ROFLMAO! Calling someone a “denier” ranks above calling one a “racist” when the accuser knows they have no argument. Jews are masters of it. Not that Vladeck is a Jew – I don’t know his heritage other than that he’d descended from a long line of leftwing activists.

    1. Why would you ruin your comment with your Jew insanity? Name the anchors on CNN and MSNBC and tell us which one is Jewish? Is Cupmo? Lemon? Maddow? Hayes? You have a problem and you make conservatives look bad…please leave.

    2. Yes, Vladeck is Jewish. Not only does he have an argument, he has evidence for his claims.

      1. He doesn’t have to be Jewish to act in a despicable fashion.

        The argument he had didn’t justify his statement. Anonymous the Stupid, I recognize that comment takes a bit of thought, so I am sure that you will make one of your silly comments instead of dealing with the idea.

  9. The incident reveals how rage has corrupted our capacity for civil and honest debate, even as academics.

    That should be especially as academics. More importantly, it’s been the so called legal scholars among those academics that have proven how vast that corruption is.

    As the admonishment goes, you had one job to do. Instead of being soldiers for the rule of law and justice, many within your community have sold their souls as mercenaries for the political class. Fortunately, you JT haven’t succumbed to the pressure.

  10. The silliness is why you would ever expect someone on CNN, or any other major news outlet, to speak the truth. If someone on CNN said the sky is blue, I would feel the need to check for myself. They don’t have a shred of honesty or decency, yet for some ridiculous reason we treat them as worthy of responding to. They are a modern day Pravda.

  11. Interesting how it is easier for someone to post on social media misinformation about someone he alleges to be a Trump supporter than it is (or was) to post anything that supports Hydroxychloroquine use to treat covid or anything that presents an alternative theory to the origins of covid-19. The Dems in charge of the Fed government discovered that Big Tech provides a perfect solution to outsourcing censorship.

  12. Turley’s MO has and always will be complicity in the protection of Trump and Barr, period. Turley picking flea crap out of pepper has always been his goal in his expiation of Trump impeachment’s and incompetency of the administration.

        1. Are you saying Professor Turley is “willfully ignorant of facts”?

          1. Is living up to the name Anonymous the stupid a full time operation or you just enjoy making a ass of yourself on a daily basis.

            1. Apparently I made a mistake in the reply I just posted. You are as Stupid as Anonymous the Stupid.

            2. FishWings — We did not see your answer to the question:

              Are you saying Professor Turley is “willfully ignorant of facts”?

    1. “ Turley picking flea crap out of pepper has always been his goal in his expiation of Trump impeachment’s and incompetency of the administration.”

      Pure literary gold. Lol!

  13. I’m reminded of an old George Carlin news item: “Police in South Africa fire over the heads of an angry protesting crowd: Two hundred dead on second floor.”

    If you read a mob the riot act and they don’t disperse, what are you, as The Government, supposed to do to maintain your legitimacy with rest of the law-abiding citizenry?

  14. Ten cops bent over and farted into the direction of the crowd. The crowd fled.

  15. vladek’s intellectual dishonesty has a motive. he’s simply not willing to admit it.

  16. Monument,

    I agree with your call to shame liars. We need to make liars suffer consequences as you say- condemnation, resignation, and ostracization. Let’s start with Trump once Trumpists will be able to agree that he has ever told a single lie.

    1. JS

      Why just Trump? He is out of office.

      Why not mention Biden who is in office and much more consequential right now.

      Your comment suggests a certain partisan bias rather than a call for integrity.

    2. BIDEN SAID: “Let’s end our exhausting war over immigration. For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform and done nothing about it. It’s time to fix it.”

      TRUTH: It was Biden’s promise of open borders that triggered the current mass migration to the US of unaccompanied minors and it will be his promise of amnesty that will keep it going.

    3. Joe Biden’s entire presidential campaign was based on a lie. Biden lies every time he talks; it’s hard to know if he believes his own lies or not. You just don’t hear about it in the Biden-friendly media that just laugh at his “gaffes” and “missteps” rather than beat him over the head with them each news cycle the way they did Trump.

  17. Tear gas was used on peaceful protestors so that a arrogant dictator want a be could have a photo op. No controversy. It happened. The controversy is a false one and it’s disgusting but not surprising that another big lie is being pushed on this thread.

    1. “Justice” Holmes is the same guy that has no problem with the cops shooting an unarmed woman who invaded the Capital on Jan 6th???? The only time in the last 20 years that a cop shoots an unarmed person, a woman no less, and we don’t even know which cop it was?

      “Justice” Holmes has no issue with the RIOTERS that invaded the Capital and attacked the SCOTUS during the Kavanaugh hearings. He loved the “peaceful” protestors that were actually in the elevators with senators as the screamed at Beta Male Jeff Flake. He has no issue with “protestors” that INVADED the State House in WI a few years ago. No issue with the goons burning down police stations and FEderal Courthouses. But now “Justice” Holmes and his ilk favor the death penalty for an unarmed woman that did the exact same thing at the Capital as he decries the use of tear gas against his favored mob. Hypocrisy is a scourge and mindless drones like Holmes are it’s purveyors.

  18. A riotous crowd is ordered to disperse and doesn’t comply. The forces of law and order use non-lethal means to effectuate compliance with law. That’s what happened. The means used may have some historical or tactical interest but matters little to anyone except those invested with the interests of the rioters.

  19. “Denier”, the second most potent insult after “racist”.

    Soon “Your mother wears combat boots” will reenter the lexicon.

    What is it about government officials that they lie (both parties) without remorse or embarrassment (or consequences)?

    We as Americans should impose penalties for lying – demanding the resignation of those officials, the refusal to accept their statements going forward, and the shaming of those individuals.

    The media is supposed to represent us (“the Fourth Estate”), but instead, they aid and abet the government liars.

    1. The left and the media’s other pet word is “debunked” as in “that story has been debunked”, when in fact it hasn’t even been investigated.

      1. Kinda like the GQP and FOXNEWS saying it wasn’t a riot or insurrection, when in fact they don’t want a investigation and they are doing EVERYTHING they can from it being investigated. Nothing to see there, lets just move on.

        1. It’s what they impeached Trump over. You mean they impeached Trump without even investigating the events on Jan. 6 for their impeachment ‘trial’?

          Everyone knows the only reason for the Jan. 6 commission is to beat the GOP and Trump over the head with it to hurt them in 2022 and 2024 (like the Mueller probe).

          Also the Dems need to distract the country from Biden’s disastrous agenda.

          1. Yet another alt-right news junkie repeating the talking points. The reason for a BIPARTISAN Jan. 6th commission is to investigate the actors and who motivated them, but with equal representation between Republicans and Democrats. Yes, Republicans have everything to lose and nothing to gain, and just want to sweep this disgraceful episode under the rug. They want to keep on lying, like their orange hero, that it was really Democrats, ANTIFA, BLM and others you disciples have been taught to hate who really caused the insurrection, instead of Trump. They want you to forget that he told you to “fight like hell or you’re not going to have a country any more”. They want you to forget what you saw on television: the “Stop the Steal” rallies, costs of which were borne by US taxpayers, in which Trump kept telling the lie that is driven by his malignant narcissism, not facts. He told his pathetic disciples that they were patriots fighting for their country, instead of gullibles misled by a narcissistic pathological liar who cannot accept that the majority of the American people never wanted him in office in the first place, never approved of him, that he trashed the successful economy he inherited, lied and tried to downplay the pandemic, and was predicted to lose. He, in fact, DID lose, but despite multiple recounts court challenges that he lost, trying to bully election officials and Pence, and, as a last-ditch desperate move, tried to raise an army of supporters to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s win.

            If there is a full BIPARTISAN investigation, this will stop the lying and attempts to cast blame on ANTIFA, BLM, and Democrats, and to focus it right where it belongs: on Trump. It would prove the type of dreg who support him: New-Nazis, White Supremacists, relatively uneducated people, people who have a lot of debt, and mostly whites.This isn’t “beating him over the head”–it’s stopping the lying.

            What is “disastrous” about Biden or his “agenda”? I actually heard that crap on Fox last night. Maybe your alt-right news sources failed to tell you, but unemployment is falling, the pandemic is being conquered, Biden enjoys a 63% overall approval rating, and the economy is recovering. How is that a “disaster”?

Comments are closed.