President Donald Trump's Washington, D.C. photo-op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church Monday evening may have backfired as troubling new details have come to light about how it was orchestrated. Prior to Trump's appearance, peaceful demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Park were cleared using tear gas to make way for Trump to walk through the park.
The protesters had been peaceful all day. A half an hour before the 7 p.m. curfew, Trump took the podium in the Rose Garden inside the White House. As he spoke, tear gas canisters can be heard popping off in the background.
By 7 p.m., it became clear what was going on. Trump strode out of the White House, through the now empty park with his staff in tow and flanked by the Secret Service.
He made his way to the historic St. John's Episcopal Church, where presidents have worshiped since the 1800s. There he posed with a Bible, holding it high in one hand, with a grim expression on his face. Then his staff joined him.
The photo-op, reportedly hatched by top advisor Hope Hicks, was heavily criticized by the bishop of St. John's. "He did not consult us, he did not warn us," she said. "It was an abuse of the symbols of our tradition and space."
As night fell, low-flying helicopters were deployed to disperse the protesters. One homeowner allowed dozens of young protesters to shelter in his home after they were cornered by the police.