President Donald Trump clutched a Bible and posed for photos in front of a church near the White House on Monday after ordering that protesters be cleared from the area with tear gas and rubber bullets.
“Greatest country in the world. And we’re going to keep it safe,” Trump said in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, just minutes after he directed law enforcement officers to tear-gas crowds protesting police brutality so he’d have an unimpeded walk from the White House to the church.
Trump, who is not a regular churchgoer, did not pray or open the Bible. He appeared to use the moment as photo-op, striking various poses with the book as he stood alongside other members of his administration. When a reporter asked if it was his Bible, he responded that it was just “a Bible.”
The Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., who oversees St. John’s, told The Washington Post that she was “outraged” that neither she nor the church’s rector were informed “that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop, holding a Bible, one that declares that God is love, and when everything he has said and done is to inflame violence.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to CNN shortly after to call out Trump for his “shameful” actions to drive back the protesters.
“They used the American military to push back a peaceful protest, which everyone watched on TV, just so he could have a photo-op of walking to a church,” Cuomo said.
Shortly before, Trump vowed to crack down on the nationwide anti-racism protests in the wake of a police officer killing George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis last week.
“As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property,” Trump said in a surreal speech from the White House Rose Garden, speaking over the sound of police flash-bang explosions.