Trump criticised for St. John's photo-op amid protests

Washington D.C. [USA], June 2 (ANI): US President Donald Trump had to face widespread criticism after he stood outside St John church in Washington for minutes holding a Bible in his right hand on Monday -- just after police cleared his route from protesters demonstrating peacefully using tear gas and flash grenades.

In video footage obtained by the New York Times on Monday before Trump headed to the church, protesters can be seen fleeing as flash grenades ignite and tear gas fills the street -- despite the fact that the demonstration had been peaceful.

The over 200-year-old historic church, St. John's -- the so-called Church of the Presidents because every one since James Madison has attended -- had been briefly set ablaze as the protests devolved on Sunday evening.

After Trump's aides spent much of Monday expressing outrage over the burning of a place of worship, Hope Hicks, a presidential adviser, eventually hatched a plan with others at the White House to have the president, who spent almost the entire weekend hiding in a bunker, walk over to the building, an official familiar with the events told the Times.

The president was seen walking alongside Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, and Ivanka Trump, his eldest daughter and senior adviser. Ivanka was wearing a mask, one of the few visible reminders on Monday that the administration was in the middle of battling a public health crisis. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, Hicks and Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff, were also among the cadre of aides.

As police sirens blared in the background, Trump, his lips set in a thin line, stood with his back to the boarded-up, graffiti-laden facade of the buttermilk yellow church.

He cradled a Bible, bouncing it in his hands as if testing its weight.

"Is that your Bible?" a reporter yelled.

"It's a Bible," Trump responded, and hoisted up the book so reporters could see.

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Mariann E. Budde, said in an interview with the Times, that the church officials were not told of the plan and expressed outrage at the White House's use of riot-control tactics on a generally peaceful crowd to clear a path for the president.

"He did not pray," the bishop, Mariann E. Budde, said in an interview. Referring to the death of the black man in police custody that set off the protests, she added: "He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years. We need a president who can unify and heal. He has done the opposite of that, and we are left to pick up the pieces." (ANI)