Attorney General Bill Barr defended security forces and said dispersing protestors was not linked to President Donald Trump walking to a church for a photo op.
Photo op or not, US civil rights groups have filed a case suing President Donald Trump after security forces fired pepper balls and smoke bombs to clear peaceful demonstrators outside the White House.
Law enforcement officers forced protestors back before Trump walked to a nearby church for a photo op on Monday that divided the United States amid nationwide protests over police brutality.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups accused the president and top officials on Thursday of violating the constitutional rights of Black Lives Matters campaigners and individual protestors.
'Coordinated and unprovoked charge'
"Police conducted a coordinated and unprovoked charge into the crowd of demonstrators and deployed several rounds of chemical irritants, rubber bullets, and sound cannons," the ACLU said.
St John's Episcopal Church is across the street from Lafayette Park, which faces the White House and has been the focus of protests in Washington.
The church was defaced with graffiti and damaged in a fire during demonstrations on Sunday night, part of the protests against George Floyd's killing in police custody.
Trump posed with a Bible outside the building after vowing to dispatch thousands of heavily armed soldiers to stop rioting.
Protesters have taken to the streets across the US in recent days to voice anger over the killing of the African American man by Minnesota police.
The president's "frankly criminal attack on protesters, because he disagreed with their views, shakes the foundation of our nation's constitutional order," said Scott Michelman, ACLU legal director.
Attorney General Bill Barr on Thursday defended security forces and said clearing the protesters was not linked to Trump walking to the church.