The White House Press Secretary has defended the actions of police after a Sunrise crew was beaten on live TV, saying they had “a right to defend themselves”.
Seven Network journalist Amelia Brace was struck by a truncheon and cameraman Tim Myers was punched and hit with a shield when US Park Police in riot gear aggressively cleared Washington DC’s Lafayette Square of protesters on Monday ahead of a visit to a church by Donald Trump.
Two US police officers have now been placed on administrative leave.
“As is consistent with our established practices and procedures, two US Park Police officers have been assigned to administrative duties, while an investigation takes place regarding the incident with the Australian Press,” Park Police acting Chief Gregory Monahan said on Wednesday.
Brace and Myers, who were doing a live cross back to Australia when they were struck, said they were also shot with rubber bullets and struggled to breathe after tear gas was fired into the crowd.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany rejected that and said the police had “a right to defend themselves”.
“No tear gas was used and no rubber bullets were used,” Ms McEnany said.
When a reporter countered by asking if “chemical agents were used” she replied: “So, again, no tear gas was used, no rubber bullets were used”.
Ms McEnany said the protesters in the park were told three times over loudspeakers they needed to move, became unruly and threw bricks and frozen water bottles at police.
“The officers had no other choice than, in that moment, to act and make sure that they were safe and that the perimeter was pushed back,” she said.
Seven’s director of news and public affairs Craig McPherson described the police actions against Brace and Myers as “nothing short of wanton thuggery” and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Payne said she asked the Australian embassy to investigate.
– with AAP