Soon after his press conference at the White House on Monday, US President Donald Trump walked to the St John's Episcopal Church situated near the White House. The 200-year-old church that has been attended by every US president since it was opened in 1816, was set ablaze during the protests on Sunday.
Law enforcement officers shot tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the protesters from Lafayette Park to make way for the president to visit the church. Many have termed the visit a mere photo-op and called him out for cracking down on peaceful protesters.
At his press conference at the White House, Trump said he would mobilize "all available resources, civilian and military" to crack down on the protests that erupted over the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis. Even as he said he would protect peaceful protesters, police charged on the protesters at Lafayette Park. Concluding his presser, Trump said he was going to pay respects to a "very very special place".
Trump was severely criticized for tear-gassing the peaceful protesters, who were demonstrating against racism in the country. Just when he was holding the presser at the White House, tear gas canisters could be heard exploding in the backdrop, PBS reported.
Trump at the St John's Episcopal Church
Trump went to the church on foot accompanied by several high-ranking White House officials, including Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
He stood in front of the church for a few minutes and held the Bible as photographers took his pictures. "We have the greatest country in the world," he told reporters, refusing to answer any questions. "We will keep America safe," he added.
For his St John's church visit, Trump was slammed by none other than the church's bishop. Talking to a Washington Post reporter, episcopal bishop Mariann Budde said she was "outraged" by the incident and that neither she nor the rector were informed about it. She also called out the tear-gassing of peaceful protesters at the Lafayette Park, "so they could use one of our churches as a prop".
According to her, everything that Trump has said or done "is to enflame violence" and "divide us". By posing outside the church, he "used one of the most sacred symbols of the Judeo-Christian tradition", Budde added.