Security cordon eased in front of White House

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Tourists and Washingtonians visit Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington, DC, on May 10, 2021, as the area reopens to the public. – Lafayette Square reopened to pedestrians nearly a year after authorities fenced off the area as demonstrations grew in size in response to the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP)

Closed to the public and ringed by metal fencing for nearly a year, the park in front of the White House reopened Monday in the latest sign Washington was returning to normal after the tense Trump years.

Lafayette Square is a typically peaceful patch of green featuring statues of Revolutionary War heroes. Tourists flock to the park to take photographs, and locals would escape their offices to gather on the benches for lunch.

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But last June, clashes erupted there between police and people protesting racial injustice after a Minneapolis officer killed the unarmed African-American man George Floyd.

After the unrest led to Donald Trump briefly taking refuge in a White House basement bunker, the then-president was accused of ordering a forced evacuation of the square so that he could walk across the space to a nearby church for a photo op.

US Park Police and National Guard troops deployed tear gas and flashbangs to clear the area of largely peaceful protesters. Authorities then erected a metal barrier around Lafayette Square.

The security perimeter was extended in the ensuing months due to presidential election turbulence and the violent insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6.

The US Secret Service, tasked with protecting the White House, did not immediately provide an explanation for the reopening of the square.

Much of the fencing remained intact, but paths were re-opened to the area, where Washingtonians and tourists on Monday strolled the brick walkways and snapped pictures of the White House.

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