An Army National Guard commander who witnessed protesters forcibly removed from Lafayette Square last month is contradicting claims by the attorney general and the Trump administration that they did not speed up the clearing to make way for the president’s photo opportunity minutes later.

A new statement by Adam DeMarco, an Iraq veteran who now serves as a major in the D.C. National Guard, also casts doubt on the claims by acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan that violence by protesters spurred Park Police to clear the area at that time with unusually aggressive tactics. DeMarco said that “demonstrators were behaving peacefully” and that tear gas was deployed in an “excessive use of force.”

DeMarco backs up law enforcement officials who told The Washington Post they believed the clearing operation would happen after the 7 p.m. curfew that night — but it was dramatically accelerated after Attorney General William P. Barr and others appeared in the park around 6 p.m. Monahan has said the operation was conducted so that a fence might be erected around the park. DeMarco said the fencing materials did not arrive until 9 p.m. — hours after Barr told the Park Police to expand the perimeter — and the fence wasn’t built until later that night.