WASHINGTON (AP) – Lafayette Square, the park across from the White House, reopened to the public on Monday, nearly a year after federal authorities fenced the area at the height of nationwide protests against police following the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis had.
Perhaps the best view of the White House to the public, the square was closed after US park police officers forcibly dispersed protesters gathered near the White House last June.
The protesters were thrown from the square shortly before then-President Donald Trump. They walked through the park and stood near St. John’s Church to pose in front of cameras with a Bible. The church was damaged the night before Trump’s photo op when a fire was started during protests in the building’s basement.
The square, named after the hero of the American Revolutionary War, is still fenced, but the entrances on the north side of the park were silently opened to the public on Monday morning.
The US secret service stated in a statement that it was “obliged to reconcile the necessary security measures with the importance of access and the view of the public.” The agency declined to comment on when or if they could remove the security fences altogether.
Lafayette Square has long been one of the most famous demonstration locations in the country.
Derek Chauvin, 45, the white Minneapolis police officer who was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, was convicted of death last month for accidental second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter from Floyd, who was black.
The Justice Department announced last week that Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis officials were charged by a federal grand jury for violating Floyd’s civil rights.