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Unforgettable moments 2020: Bible, tear gas star in Trump’s most awkward photo-op

It was a typical summer evening in Washington DC on June 1; warm, with the late evening sun still bright in the plaza between St. John’s Church and Lafayette Park outside the White House. This popular public space was crowded with people peacefully protesting police brutality on a late Monday afternoon.

George Floyd, a Black man, had been killed under a police officer’s knee in Minneapolis a week earlier. At around 6:30 pm, the horses come into view. Mounted police made their way into the crush of people and suddenly started firing tear gas and smoke canisters, without any warning or explanation. Many held up their hands, saying, “Don’t shoot.” If there was a megaphone, nobody heard it. As the smoke grew thicker, and the screams grew louder, the veil lifted on the motivations for the abrupt cleansing operation.

US President Trump wanted to walk from the White House through Lafayette Park to St. John’s Episcopal Church, followed by a train of loyalists, for a planned photo-op. The orders for the tear gas came from Attorney General William Barr, so that the President could go about his gig on schedule, minus pesky protesters who were mostly

masked up.

Trump’s performative politics got a sanitised public walkway. He went over to the Church and posed for the cameras, with a Bible in his right hand. He didn’t mention George Floyd, neither did he talk about the church which was his backdrop. Additional fencing went up around the White House the same week, and the street itself

got renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, in giant yellow letters.

In the Rolodex of Trump’s televised moments, there isn’t a more jarring one than this Bible stunt from June 1. If Trump thought this was a fine idea in a bid to hold on to evangelical voters, he achieved that and yet failed in his re-election bid. Trump won about 8 in 10 white evangelical Christian voters but Catholic voters split almost evenly between him and Biden, according to the AP VoteCast.

Around noon On November 7, when results of the Presidential election first flashed on screens in Washington DC, the exact spot where the horses came into view and crowds ran for their lives became the scene of a giant block party. People danced, they sang, cars honked, a picnic vibe was everywhere on the streets that were eerily quiet all week.

Trump’s pet phrases from his Twitter rants were now on hastily scrawled signs declaring his loss. Revellers held up signs saying “Fired”, “You’re about to lose your job,” a truck with a giant billboard saying “LOSER” went round and round the streets that circle the White House, rubbing it in.

Down the block, near a Trump hotel, a street side vendor was selling baseball hats to meet the moment. He had blue hats proclaiming “Biden President” and red ones with “F**k Trump” on it. The red ones sold out, $10 a piece.