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Australia Investigates Treatment of Journalists at US Protest


President Donald Trump walks from the gates of the White House to visit St. John's Church across Lafayette Park Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington.

Australia’s foreign ministery Tuesday said it would investigate an assault by U.S. police and security forces on two Australian television journalists outside the White House as U.S. President Trump had the area cleared for a photo opportunity.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she has asked the Australian Embassy in Washington to investigate the incident in which the journalists can be seen on video being slammed with a riot shield, punched and hit with a baton while broadcasting from the protest.

Video showed Australian TV reporter Amelia Brace being clubbed with a truncheon and cameraman Tim Myers being hit with a riot shield and punched in the face by personnel clearing Washington's Lafayette Square of protesters Monday. The square is directly across the street from the White House.

The incident was widely broadcast in Australia, causing consternation in a country that has been a close U.S. ally. The journalists said they were later shot with rubber bullets and tear-gassed, which Brace said left the pair "a bit sore".

Payne said wants further advice on how she would go about registering Australia's strong concerns with the responsible local Washington authorities, indicating a formal complaint would follow.

U.S. ambassador to Australia Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr. said on Twitter: "We take mistreatment of journalists seriously, as do all who take democracy seriously." He said the U.S. stays “steadfast in our commitment to protecting journalists and guaranteeing equal justice under law for all.”

National Guard troops and federal law enforcement personnel had forcibly cleared the square of peaceful protesters to allow U.S. President Donald Trump to conduct a photo opportunity.

Trump has faced fierce criticism for his handling of days of protests over the death in police custody of an unarmed African-American man in Minneapolis.

George Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

This story has been amended to read that local police forces, according to Washington, D.C., officials, did not take part in efforts to clear protesters from Lafayette Square, near the White House.