(WASHINGTON) — After almost a year of being closed to the public, Lafayette Square, the park north of the White House, quietly reopened to the public on Monday.
The park had been closed since the summer, following the forceful removal of peaceful protesters by law enforcement. Following the park’s clearance, former President Donald Trump walked across it from the White House to pose for photographers with a Bible in front of St. John’s Church.
Fencing still surrounds the park, but the entrances have been opened, offering visitors a closer view of the White House.
A group of visitors on Monday told ABC News that they were initially told to leave by an officer who said the park had not reopened, but other officers quickly stepped in to say the square had indeed reopened and that they could stay.
There was no formal announcement about the park’s reopening.
“In protecting the White House and its residents, the U.S. Secret Service acknowledges that the surrounding area can be a powerful symbol of our nation and our democracy, and the agency is committed to balancing necessary security measures with the importance of public access and view,” a Secret Service spokesperson told ABC News in response to a request for comment. “Due to the need to maintain operational security, we do not discuss the specifics of security fencing or other operational means and methods.”
ABC News also reached out to the U.S. National Park Service about the reopening, but did not immediately get a response.
The square has a long history of hosting both small and large demonstrations and protests.
Following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, demonstrators had gathered in Washington and Lafayette Square — part of nationwide protests.
On June 1, law enforcement used chemical irritants and smoke canisters to clear the protesters from the park, making way for the president and his photo-op in front of the nearby church.
Two days later, the District of Columbia Public Works Department painted the words “Black Lives Matter” in massive yellow on the street near the White House. Over the course of the rest of the summer and into the following year, protesters gathered at what the mayor officially named Black Lives Matter Plaza.
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