Officials back off removing temporary fencing at White House

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FILE - In this Monday, June 1, 2020, file photo police clear the area around Lafayette Park and the White House in Washington, as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers last month. The violent clearing of demonstrators from the nation's premier protest space in front of the White House is spotlighting a tiny federal watch force created by George Washington. Democratic lawmakers want answers about the clubbing, punching and other force deployed by some Park Police in routing protesters from the front of the White House on Monday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The Trump administration appears to be retreating from its commitment to quickly remove most of a new fence blocking demonstrators and other members of the public from in front of the White House.

Instead, National Park Service spokeswoman Katie Liming says only that her agency is in “continuing discussions” with the Secret Service about what Liming called the temporary security fencing at the front of the White House.

Officials abruptly erected the high, black metal fence last week to block demonstrators from Lafayette Square outside the White House. That was as massive crowds rallied in Washington and around the country to protest the killing of George Floyd in police custody, and other deaths of African Americans at the hands of police.

Members of the park service's U.S. Park Police and other security forces lobbed chemical agents and punched and clubbed demonstrators and journalists in clearing Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1, just before crews raised the new fence. Trump administration officials have denied federal forces at the time of the forceful removal of crowds were making way for President Donald Trump to stage photos nearby.

Lafayette Square has historically been one of the country's most prominent spots for demonstrations and other public advocacy,

Liming had said at the start of this week that officials would remove “most” of the fence at Lafayette Square on Wednesday.

Liming in her latest update, however, said only that fencing elsewhere, on the south side of the White House, would be removed “on or about” Wednesday.

She did not immediately respond to a question about why the Park Service now appeared to be moving away from its commitment to take down most of the Lafayette Square fence Wednesday.