Attorney General William Barr on Clearing Protestors

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The administration’s defenders have put a lot of emphasis on Attorney General Barr’s statement that the operation to clear the protesters was approved well before Trump’s photo-op and was meant to expand a security perimeter. I’m happy to assume the truth of this, and that there were sufficient reasons for the decision. But it doesn’t establish that the clearing of the protesters, precisely when it happened, with the particular means that were used, was okay. Or that it was unrelated to the photo-op. Barr’s statement is not specific enough to neutralize the criticisms.

This might sound like a debater’s point when put thus abstractly, but imagine how things could have gone down instead. You let the protesters finish the day as long as they are not injuring people, destroying property, or about to do either. You use the least dangerous and painful means that seem likely to achieve the goal. You do it, if possible, slowly and gently and late at night, when the crowd is thinner and people want to go home anyway. You walk over the next morning, not 15 minutes afterward. You ask General Milley not to wear his combat fatigues. You don’t wave a Bible around.

We’d be in a different world.

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