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A Bible, tear gas and riot police: Donald Trump's most shameful photo opportunity.

At 7:01pm on Monday, Eastern US time, US President Donald Trump walked out of the White House and towards St. John’s Episcopal Church, also known as the Church of the Presidents, where he was photographed by the press, holding aloft a Bible.

A video of the walk, accompanied by rousing music, was uploaded by the official White House Twitter page. It depicts a peaceful walk on a sunny afternoon in Washington DC.

Photos of Donald Trump holding up the Bible as though it is a trophy were circulated by his supporters.

But the real news story here is the tactics employed by Trump to get that photo, and what was happening just out of frame.

Moments earlier, thousands of people, protesting peacefully, were gathered outside the White House.

They had been there for several days. Nearly a week earlier, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minnesota. The 46-year-old man’s death triggered protests – some violent, others peaceful – across America, as the nation responds to the irrefutable injustice black citizens continue to experience at the hands of authorities.

On this particular evening in Washington DC, the protests were peaceful as people gathered to shout for justice and hold up signs reading “Black Lives Matter”.

That day, Trump made a national address in which he declared: “I am your president of law and order.”

“We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now.”

He then instructed police and law enforcement to “dominate the streets” against protestors.

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About an hour before the city’s 7pm curfew came into effect, police delivered on that request. They deployed violent force against the protestors to clear the pathway, that Donald Trump would soon walk, toward St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Videos of the brutal scenes show protestors being doused in tear gas – which despite its widespread use is a banned substance per the 1993 International Chemical Weapons Convention. Protestors were also hit with flash-bang explosions and rubber bullets.

Two Channel 7 journalists were among the members of media covering the demonstration. As the police officers began to clear the crowd, one officer slammed his shield into the Channel 7 cameraman, as the journalist shouted “Media! Media!” The Australian cameraman and journalist Amelia Brace promptly turned to run away, as another officer swung a baton at her back. The footage from the cameraman’s perspective aired on live TV here in Australia, and another media crew captured the scene from another angle.

When Brace returned to screen, clearly shocked at what just happened, she reported: “You heard us yelling there that we were media, but they, they don’t care.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has since contacted the Australian ambassador to the United States, Arthur Sinodinos, to investigate the treatment of those journalists.

But not only were protestors and journalists indiscriminately targeted, so too were priests.

The rector of St. John’s Church says she is “frankly shaken” after she was tear-gassed by police.

“We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear,” Rector Gini Gerbasi wrote in a Facebook post that has since gone viral.

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“I am shaken, not so much by the taste of tear gas and the bit of a cough I still have, but by the fact that that show of force was for a PHOTO OPPORTUNITY. The patio of St. John’s, Lafayette square had been HOLY GROUND today. A place of respite and laughter and water and granola bars and fruit snacks. But that man turned it into a BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second.”

When Donald Trump arrived, the photo session – during which he used the Bible as a mere prop – lasted 17 minutes.

Whilst there, a reporter asked the President: “Is that your Bible?”

“It’s a Bible,” Trump responded.

The Bishop who oversees St. John’s Episcopal Church, Mariann Edgar Budde, vehemently condemned the President’s actions in an interview with The New York Times.

“He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years. We need a president who can unify and heal. He has done the opposite of that, and we are left to pick up the pieces.”

Indeed, the photo proves once more that his tactic is one of horror, not harmony.

In an act of overt propaganda, Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “Washington, D.C., was the safest place on earth last night!”

Sometimes, a photo can tell 1000 lies.


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