AG Barr Denies Tear-Gassing Protest: ‘Pepper Spray Is Not A Chemical Irritant’

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The “overwhelming majority of police are good people. They’re civic minded people who believe in serving the public.”

In an interview with CBS News, Attorney General William Barr denied that the US Park Police used tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the White House last week ahead of President Donald Trump’s photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

  • Interview host Margaret Brennan asked Barr if he believed that the Park Police’s use of tear gas to clear Lafayette Square was appropriate, to which he replied, “When they met resistance, yes.”

“They announced three times. They didn't move. By the way, there was no tear gas used. The tear gas was used Sunday when they had to clear H Street to allow the fire department to come in to save St. John's Church. That's when tear gas was used.”

  • When Brennan mentioned that “chemical irritants” were used on protesters, Barr interjected: “No, there were not chemical irritants. Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant. It’s not a chemical.”
  • He clarified that pepper balls, which are “paintball-like projectiles filled with chemicals like pepper spray and tear gas” according to Business Insider, were used on the protestors.
  • However, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies pepper spray, “pepper balls” and “smoke canisters” as types of tear gas.
  • In addition, PepperBall, a private company that produces chemical irritants, advertised that its pepper balls contain “a proprietary chemical irritant that’s proven more effective from even greater distances.”
  • Popular Mechanics reported that in 2018, the US Army awarded PepperBall a $650,000 contract for the purchase of paintball guns that shot these projectiles, in order to “give US forces in Afghanistan the option of disabling potential threats instead of shooting them.”

When Brennan asked Barr if there was anything he would have done differently, he replied that “in general, you had the qualified law enforcement officials with shields warning and moving a line slowly. They had mounted officers moving slowly, directing people to move. And most people complied.”

Watch the interview here.

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