Attorney General William Barr is defending his decision to use force on peaceful protesters outside the White House on Monday. He claimed that it was a necessary measure to gain control after “very serious rioting,” which resulted in injuries to law enforcement officials and damage to structures in the surrounding area.

At a Department of Justice (DOJ) new conference Thursday, Barr said that more than 100 security officers were injured over the weekend amid demonstrations protesting the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Barr alleged that individuals had used crowbars and flung them at law enforcement officials in Lafayette Park, which is a seven-acre public park located directly north of the White House.

“We decided that we needed more of a buffer to protect the White House and to protect our agents and Secret Service personnel who could be reached by projectiles from H Street,” Barr said, flanked by the heads of five federal law enforcement agencies. “I made the decision that we would try to move our perimeter northward by one block to provide this additional protection.”

On Monday evening, officers with the U.S. Park Police utilized shields and chemical irritants to forcibly remove protesters and journalists from the area so that President Donald Trump could walk across the street for a photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Over the weekend, protesters had ignited a fire on the church’s premises, which resulted in structural damage.

Barr maintained that the decision to clear the area had nothing to do with Trump’s visit to the church, in his first comments about Monday evening’s event. He claimed that the arrangement to expand the secured perimeter had been made Monday morning.

“It was our hope to do that relatively quickly, before many demonstrators appeared that day. Unfortunately, because of the difficulty in getting appropriate forces and units into place, by the time they were able to move our perimeter … a number of demonstrators were on H street. Projectiles were thrown and the group was becoming increasingly unruly. They were asked three times if they would move back one block. They refused,” Barr said.

At a news conference Thursday, the attorney general acknowledged that he had not known of Trump’s plans to visit the church before the area was forcibly cleared. He continued to insist that there was no connection between the two events.

“I did not know that he was going to do that until later in the day after our plans were well underway to move the perimeter… There was no correlation between our tactical plan of moving the perimeter out by one block and the president going over to the church,” Barr said.

The attorney general continued to defend the move, “I think the president is the head of the executive branch and the chief executive of the nation and should be able to walk outside the White House and walk across the street to the church of presidents. I don’t necessarily view that as a political act. I think it was entirely appropriate for him to do.”