June 10 (UPI) -- Hundreds of former Justice Department employees on Wednesday called for a probe of Attorney General William Barr's involvement in a move by police to clear demonstrators from an area near the White House last week.
In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, 1,250 department alumni -- many of them former career prosecutors, supervisors and trial lawyers -- urged the internal agency watchdog to look into Barr's role in a June 1 incident in which federal law enforcement officers used horses and tear gas to push a largely peaceful group of protesters back from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.
In the incident, protesters who had gathered outside the White House to denounce the police-involved death of George Floyd were charged by U.S. Park Police officers firing rubber bullets and chemical gas.
The show of force came shortly after President Donald Trump threatened to mobilize thousands of active U.S. military members against demonstrators.
The purpose of the police action, the Justice Department alumni wrote, was to enable Trump "to walk across the street from the White House and stage a photo op at St. John's Church, a politically motivated event in which Attorney General Barr participated."
"While the full scope of the Attorney General's role is not yet clear, he has admitted that he was present in front of the White House before law enforcement personnel took action to disperse the crowd," they wrote.
Barr has denied giving the "tactical order" for the Park Police to charge the demonstrators, but White House and Justice Department officials confirmed Barr had personally ordered the execution of a plan devised earlier in the day to push the crowds back following incidences of vandalism the previous night.
Trump has faced criticism from Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, other prominent Democrats and military officials over the incident. Pentagon adviser James Miller resigned in protest over Defense Secretary Mike Esper's involvement in the police move.
Protesters demand justice in police killing of George Floyd
Protesters gather in Washington Square Park in New York City on June 9. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo