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Protesters at Lafayette Square, June 4. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to President Trump Monday asking him to reopen Lafayette Square to the public.

Why it matters: The park became the center of controversy last Monday when federal officers forcibly cleared protesters from the area outside of the White House so that Trump could walk to St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo op. Its various entrances have been blocked off by metal barricades since last week.

  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the White House's handling of the incident at a press briefing on Monday, saying that the president has "no regrets" and that Attorney General Bill Barr was the one who directed the park to be cleared.
  • McEnany also said that decisions concerning the security perimeter are "not something that is in White House control" and deferred questions to the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police.

What they're saying: "Your conversion of this unique public park in the heart of our Nation’s capital to what looks like a militarized zone denies citizens access to the park and sends the worst possible message to the American public and people around the world," the Democratic leaders wrote.

  • "Lafayette Square should be a symbol of freedom and openness, not a place behind which the leader of our Executive Branch cowers in fear of protesters who are crying out for justice."
  • "It is simply not credible to claim that the current protests justify the oppressive walls you have erected in response."

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to show that the letter was sent to President Trump today (not Friday).

Go deeper

Pelosi says stimulus talks will resume when White House agrees to $2.2 trillion

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters on Aug. 27. Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after a 25-minute phone call with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday that the two sides remain at a "tragic impasse" over a coronavirus relief package.

The state of play: Democrats are willing to agree to a $2.2 trillion stimulus deal — $1.2 trillion less than the HEROES Act that the House passed in May, Pelosi said. She called on the Trump administration to meet them in the middle, and she said talks would not resume unless they do so.

Over 1,000 guests pack into White South Lawn for RNC

Protesters gathered in Black Lives Matter plaza and people attending Trump's acceptance speech in Washington D.C. on Aug. 27. Photos: Left, Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images; right, Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump will officially accept the Republican nomination for president before a crowd of more than 1,000 people on the White House South Lawn Thursday night. Meanwhile, demonstrators gathered outside in Lafayette Park to protest his administration.

Why it matters: The president's re-election campaign and the Republican National Convention have essentially transformed the South Lawn of the White House into a political stage.

Mark Meadows downplays RNC Hatch Act concerns

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Wednesday downplayed concerns that Republican National Convention events staged at the White House potentially violated the Hatch Act during a Politico virtual event.

Why it matters: The Hatch Act prevents executive branch employees from engaging in partisan political activity, though it does not apply to the president and vice president. Previous administrations have avoided hosting campaign-style events at the White House in order to separate politics from governing.