[Fox News] Top Republican demands answers after WH protests yield 0 arrests; questions ‘political sympathy’ with vandals

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The top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee demanded answers from the Department of the Interior over its handling of violent protests that engulfed National Park Service property outside the White House last week.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., whose committee has oversight over the Interior Department, also questioned in a Thursday letter whether politics played a role in how the chaos concluded with a “disturbing” lack of arrests.

The letter, obtained by Fox News Digital, recounted assaults on U.S. Park Police and a National Park Service ranger at Lafayette Park – which lies just north of the White House – as thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators amassed to protest the administration.

“I am deeply troubled with last weekend’s incidents near the White House involving pro-terror, anti-Israel agitators,” Barrasso wrote to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, saying the vandals inscribed “Long live Hamas” and other slogans on federal property.

US PARK POLICE INVESTIGATING CRIMINAL ACTIVITY AFTER ANTI-ISRAEL PROTESTS

Barrasso demanded Haaland account for the lack of arrests by describing how she is working with law enforcement to identify suspects, and he also called on the department to implement explicit measures to protect federal park rangers on-duty.

No arrests were made following the chaos, but NBC News reported one individual who had scaled a statue slipped away from a law enforcement officer who attempted to detain them.

Statuary honoring two key French figures in the American Revolution – the Compte de Rochambeau and Marquis de Lafayette – were vandalized during the protests. President Biden was coincidentally in France at the time.

Barrasso wrote to Haaland that her oversight of the NPS and USPP is paramount to federal land security and that the chaos that ensued in Lafayette Park is emblematic of the dangers rangers and other law enforcement face daily.

“I question whether political sympathy with the agitators influenced your department’s response to these acts of violence and vandalism. It is imperative that your department’s actions are guided by the principles of law and order, rather than political considerations,” said Barrasso.

RIOTER VANDALISM TARGETED AFTER PRO-PALESTINIAN PROTESTS

Some Republicans have criticized the Biden administration writ-large for appearing to waffle at times on support for Israel, purportedly to shore up electoral support in places like Michigan.

The thousands of protesters, however, were angry at the administration for what they saw as just the opposite – not enough support for the Palestinian faction in the conflict. 

Demonstrators shouted “f— you, fascist” and “oink, oink” at park rangers while at least one American flag was lit ablaze and a protester brandished a bloodied Joe Biden face mask.

In response to the chaos, an NPS spokesperson told Fox News Digital last week that the “safety of our employees and our visitors is our top priority.”

“National Park Service managers, in conjunction with local officials, engage in event planning to provide for public safety during permitted demonstrations,” the spokesperson said, going on to confirm injuries to one ranger and two USPP officers.

In his letter, Barrasso called for enhanced security measures at NPS properties like Lafayette Park and revisions to protocols for managing violent demonstrations.

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Another Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, reacted to the protests by introducing the Saving Treasured Artifacts Through Uniform Enforcement (STATUE) Act, which would establish mandatory minimum sentences for such vandalism.

Cotton appeared to echo Barrasso’s conjecture of “political sympathy,” saying in a statement, “Joe Biden seeks to appease the pro-Hamas wing of the Democratic Party [and] it’s clear his administration won’t do anything to punish the protestors (sic) who defaced the area around the White House recently.”

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., called the protests “disgusting, disgraceful behavior we’ve come to expect from terrorist sympathizers.”

Haaland and the Interior Department did not respond to multiple attempts to procure comment.

Fox News’ Brianna Herlihy and Julia Johnson contributed to this report.

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