Anarchists clashed with riot police in the streets of Washington, D.C., during their anti-fascist protest to mark Donald Trump's presidential inauguration. Blockades of dozens of helmeted police advanced on the protesters with pepper spray, paintball guns full of chemical suppressants and stun grenades — either percussion or flash-bang grenades, both of which are used to disorient targets — that they hurled into a mostly peaceful crowd flecked with occasional anarchist rock-throwers.
That was the scene witnessed by media on the ground, including Mic reporters. But police later claimed that it was the protesters who, in fact, showed up with grenades.
Police copped to using some crowd-control equipment — "Pepper spray and other control devices were used to control the criminal actors and protect persons and property," they said in a statement — but didn't directly acknowledge using stun grenades themselves.
In a press conference Friday evening, a reporter asked if police had used "sound and flash grenades."
"We're still looking into that, so I don't want to give you a definitive answer," interim Washington Police Chief Peter Newsham said in response. "Our officers in the field have suggested that the protesters did have some of those devices, so we're going to make sure none were deployed by the MPD before we say definitively."
In other words, the police said protesters had grenades, but that the police themselves may not have used them — and further investigation is required to know if they did. When Mic reached out Saturday to the Metro Police to ask if the investigation had concluded, a spokesperson referred back to the statement and press conference from Friday, in which police refused to confirm the use of stun grenades.
Perhaps the photos we snapped while dodging said grenades could aid police in their investigation. Let's take a look:
In the above photo, you can see an officer handing a grenade to another officer behind him. Then the officer pulled the pin:
And here's a video from moments later, when one of those grenades came flying past protesters and media on the scene:
There are dozens of photos like this on social media.
Protestors threw rocks and hunks of brick at the riot police — some even picked up leftover chunks of grenade to lob back behind police lines. They started fires to stop the advancing police. Some of the violent minority even broke the windows of a McDonald's, a Starbucks and a Bank of America branch.
No credible eyewitness accounts show protestors showing up with stun grenades or other weaponry.
It's unclear how the police could be so sure of something no one else saw or reported while refusing to speak categorically about the widely documented conduct of their own officers. That the acting chief couldn't confirm whether or not police threw stun grenades is puzzling, especially since he was able to confirm protesters threw them, which is information that likely came from police on the ground.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on Trump's inauguration and the aftermath.