WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. President Donald Tr
U.S. President Donald Trump (C) waves to journalists as he returns to the White House after posing for photographs in front of St. Johns Episcopal Church June 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump held up a bible while standing in front of the church, which was partially burned during violent protests the night before. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
  • President Donald Trump was enraged by coverage of him sheltering in a bunker during protests around the White House, according to several reports.
  • In response, the reports said, he staged a photo op at a nearby church, to demonstrate that he was not afraid to be seen outside, the reports said.
  • To make way for him, police cleared peaceful demonstrators with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades.
  • The president is facing mounting criticism for his response to the unrest that has broken out in cities across the US.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

President Donald Trump's anger at criticism for sheltering in a bunker during protests outside the White House spurred him to stage a controversial photo-op outside a church damaged in the protests, according to reports.

In order for the media moment to take place, peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square were that evening dispersed by police with tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets to clear the way for the president.

The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while being subdued by police in Minneapolis last week.

As the president in a speech in the Rose Garden declared himself "an ally of all peaceful protesters," explosions from the police operation and the shouts of protesters could be heard in the background.

Trump stood outside St John's Episcopal Church, which is just outside the White House. He held a Bible while news cameras rolled, before returning inside.

CNN was the first to report that one of the reasons for the visit was Trump's displeasure at reports he had sheltered in a high-security bunker under the White House on Friday as protesters clashed with police outside.

The report was later confirmed by The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The scenes outside the White House on Monday ahead of Trump's photo-op, where peaceful protesters ran as clouds of tear gas rolled across Lafeyette Square, drew strong criticism from the bishop who presides over the church.

Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde, of the diocese of Washington, DC, told The Washington Post that she had not been informed of the president's visit in advance or "that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop."

"Holding a Bible, one that declares that God is love and when everything he has said and done is to enflame violence. I am beyond," Budde said.

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