Fencing and associated equipment put up around the White House in response to peaceful protests for racial justice cost taxpayers more than $1.5 million, according to government records obtained by CREW.
On June 1, 2020, peaceful protestors in Lafayette Park were met with unreasonable violence by federal police officers, in part to allow President Trump to hold a photo op with a bible in front of a church. That day, Trump announced he would be taking action to put down the protest, which the nation would look on in horror to see involved a heavily militarized federal presence in DC and an eight foot tall reinforced fence around the White House complex.
We still do not know the exact reasoning behind the fence. At the time, a White House spokesperson refused to comment on it. The Secret Service noted vague national security reasons, but did not give specifics. CREW sent a Freedom of Information Act request for records of the planning and the cost of the fence.
In response to CREW’s request, the Secret Service turned over hundreds of pages of mostly redacted emails on procurement and construction of the fencing, as well as two contracts that reflect the price of the fencing on pages 249 and 260.
Last summer, fencing keeping the public out of parks around the Capitol and the White House was an unfamiliar sight. Unfortunately, after the violent insurrection on January 6th, the necessity of more permanent fencing around certain DC landmarks was made all too obvious. In the case of the rioters and white supremacists who stormed the Capitol, their goal was to stop the peaceful transfer of power and harm elected government leaders like then-Vice President Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi.
The racial justice protests last summer were very different. There were no casualties, the government was never breached and the protests were for the most part peaceful. After the insurrection in January, Trump’s response to racial justice protests in June looks even more extreme. The newly uncovered $1.5 million spent on temporary fencing and equipment to keep protestors from the White House is only the latest illustration of the discrepancy.