World

US police “on leave” after 7 News attack

By AAP Newswire

Two US police officers have been placed on administrative leave after a Seven Network journalist and cameraman were beaten at a rally outside the White House.

Amelia Brace was struck by a truncheon and Tim Myers punched and hit with a shield when US Park Police in riot gear aggressively cleared Washington DC's Lafayette Square of protesters on Monday ahead of a visit to a church by US President Donald Trump.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who compared Mr Trump's walk to the church to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill examining bomb damaged London in World War II, defended the actions of the police.

"As is consistent with our established practices and procedures, two US Park Police officers have been assigned to administrative duties, while an investigation takes place regarding the incident with the Australian Press," Park Police acting Chief Gregory Monahan said on Wednesday.

A rally was held in the park demanding justice for George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died during a police arrest last week.

Ms Brace and Mr Myers, who were doing a live cross back to Australia when they were struck, said they were also shot with rubber bullets and struggled to breathe after tear gas was fired into the crowd.

Ms McEnany rejected that and said the police had "a right to defend themselves".

"No tear gas was used and no rubber bullets were used," Ms McEnany said.

When a reporter countered by asking if "chemical agents were used" she replied: "So, again, no tear gas was used, no rubber bullets were used".

Ms McEnany said the protesters in the park were told three times over loudspeakers they needed to move, became unruly and threw bricks and frozen water bottles at police.

"The officers had no other choice than, in that moment, to act and make sure that they were safe and that the perimeter was pushed back," she said.

After the park was cleared on Monday evening Mr Trump, holding a bible, joined Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other administration officials for a walk through the park and a photo opportunity in front of St John's Episcopal Church.

Ms McEnany said Mr Trump visited the church, which was targetted in an arson attack on Sunday, "to send a very powerful message".

"Like Churchill, we saw him inspecting the bombing damage; it sent a powerful message of leadership to the British people," she said.

"And George W Bush throwing out the ceremonial first pitch after 9/11.

"And Jimmy Carter, putting on a sweater to encourage energy savings.

"And George HW Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act, flanked by two disabled Americans."

Seven's director of news and public affairs Craig McPherson described the police actions against Ms Brace and Mr Myers as "nothing short of wanton thuggery" and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Payne said she asked the Australian embassy to investigate.