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Civil Rights Groups Sue Trump and Barr Over Assault on Lafayette Square Protesters

The suit was filed on behalf of Black Lives Matter DC and individual protesters.

A protester is treated after law enforcement sprays tear gas to clear the area for Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square, June 1, 5:46 PM. Photograph by Evy Mages

Civil rights groups including Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU of the District of Columbia, along with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and the law firm of Arnold & Porter, filed a lawsuit Thursday in US District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Black Lives Matter DC and several protesters against President Trump, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and other officials over the assault Barr ordered June 1 on protesters outside Lafayette Square in DC so Trump could execute a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The suit also names as individual defendants “John Doe” members of the US Park Police, Secret Service Police, US armed forces, and other federal agencies, as well as “John Poe” members of the Arlington County Police Department and other non-federal law enforcement officials.

The complaint, which cites Trump’s tweet that said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” about demonstrations in Minnesota, his exhortations for governors to “dominate” protesters and Esper’s description of cities as a “battle space,” asserts that the tear gas and rubber bullets authorities unleashed on protesters violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights under the US Constitution. It asks for the court to issue an injunction that orders Trump et al. to “cease engaging in the unlawful acts described herein” and award compensatory and punitive damages.

You can read the suit here:

Blm v. Trump Complaint by Washingtonian Magazine on Scribd

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.