Backlash over President Trump’s church photo op

Families held up homemade signs in protest as Trump drove through Washington, D.C., while church leaders criticized his show of force with tear gas in front of a place of worship.
4:17 | 06/03/20

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Transcript for Backlash over President Trump’s church photo op
Now to the fallout from the president's visit to St. John's church just after we were on the air last night. The police firing at peaceful demonstrators, apparently to clear the way for the president. We've learned it was attorney general William Barr who gave the order. Here's Jonathan Karl. Reporter: As president trump rode through Washington today, citizens, including families with homemade signs, jeered the presidential limousine. We were in the motorcade watching the people. Their signs, withering. "Are you a moral monster?" "#Icantbreathe." Today, outrage is growing over the forceful removal of peaceful protesters to clear the way for the president to hold a photo op at St. John's church. It all began shortly after 6:00 P.M., the hour before Washington's curfew took effect. The protesters had gathered just a block from the white house gate. As the president prepared to speak in the rose garden, our camera spotted attorney general bill Barr surveying the scene. ABC news has learned the attorney general then gave the order to remove the protesters by force. And so it began, continuing even as the president was saying these words. I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters. Reporter: You could hear the explosions from the rose garden. Smoke canisters, and pepper balls to force the protesters away. Among those roughed up an Australian TV crew. The photographers hit in the face. His colleague hit with a baton as she tried to flee. After he was done speaking, the president, accompanied by top advisers, walked to St. John church, crossing the street where protesters had gathered less than an hour earlier. In front of the church, the president held up a bible. Is that your bible? It's a bible. Reporter: He summoned his advisers to pose for a photo before heading back to the white house. Among the first to express outrage, the bishop of Washington. The spiritual leader of episcopalians in the nation's capital, including the parishioners at St. John's. He is not entitled to use the spiritual symbolism of our sacred spaces and our sacred texts to promote or to justify a completely entire -- an entirely different message. Reporter: The condemnation stretched across the political spectrum, including prominent Republicans. If your question is, should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo op, the answer is no. Reporter: Republican senator Ben sasse said, quote, "I'm against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the word of god as a political prop." Reporter: Even pat Robertson, prominent televangelist and an ardent supporter of president trump, had harsh words for the president. Is seems like now is the time to say, I understand your pain. I want to comfort you, I think it's time we love each other. But the president took a different course. Reporter: Robertson lambasted the president for threatening to move military troops into American cities unless the nation's governors control the violence. As a matter of fact he spoke of them being jerks. You just don't do that, Mr. President. It isn't cool. Jon, I know you were in the motorcade witnessing the protesters and signs. And a former president now weighing in? Reporter: Former president George W. Bush with a powerful statement that condemns the brutal suffocation of George Floyd. He does not mention president trump by name, but he does express support for the protesters. Saying those that set out to silence the voices do not understand the meaning of America, or how it becomes a better place. That's president George W. Bush tonight. David? Jon, thanks. There are massive gatherings tonight in Houston as well.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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