Mayor Muriel Bowser with her chief of staff, John Falcicchio (left) at her re-election victory party in 2018.
Mayor Muriel Bowser with her chief of staff, John Falcicchio (left) at her re-election victory party in 2018. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser finally announced her re-election bid. But already she’s off to a not-completely-honest start. In her first statement as a mayoral candidate, Heronor attempted to capitalize on her tussle with former President Donald Trump during racial justice protests two summers ago.

“When Trump attacked us with rubber bullets & tear gas, we organized a few courageous artists and some cans of paint, and we pushed back with a powerful message of unity,” she said.

But, as we’ve come to learn, Bowser’s own police force used a chemical agent and other munitions against peaceful protesters during the clearing of Lafayette Park ahead of Trump’s infamous photo shoot in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in June of 2020.

To wit: Video footage from independent filmmaker Roddy Hafiz showed Metropolitan Police Officers firing projectiles as law enforcement cleared the area around Lafayette Park on June 1. It’s unclear from the video what exactly officers are firing, but another clip shows a man and his 15-year-old daughter on the side of 17th Street NW coughing after having escaped chemical gas. The footage came to light in July of 2020 in a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration and former MPD Chief Peter Newsham.

Then in May of 2021, an MPD spokesperson acknowledged to WUSA9 that the department used tear gas around Lafayette Park on June 1.

And this June, a report from the U.S. Interior Department’s inspector general confirmed that MPD used tear gas on protesters.

“We determined, and the MPD confirmed, that the MPD used CS gas on 17th Street on June 1,” the report says.

The inspector general’s report says U.S. Park Police officers used smoke canisters, not tear gas. USPP officers were surprised when they felt the irritant in the air and had to put on gas masks “to avoid becoming incapacitated by what they believed to be CS gas in the area,” the report says. Officers from the Bureau of Prisons also used pepper balls, according to the report.

A representative from Bowser’s campaign did not respond to Loose Lips’ request for clarification.

Scott Michelman, legal director of the ACLU-DC, says Bowser’s statement shows a lot of “chutzpah.”

“The fact that the mayor has chosen to engage in performative political steps, like painting the street, rather than engage in serious police reform that community members have been calling for for years is why we’ve had to sue the District so many times over the past several years,” he says.

Bowser is seeking a third term as mayor. If her re-election bid is successful, she would become the second three-term mayor in the District’s history. Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry served three consecutive terms from 1979 to 1991.

In a significant departure from her previous campaigns that were largely funded by corporate donors and developers, Bowser plans to use D.C.’s public campaign financing program, which she has criticized in the past.

She’s facing challenges from At-Large Councilmember Robert White and Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White.