A federal judge has dismissed allegations that former President Donald Trump and federal officials conspired against protestors last June when then-President Trump had protesters forcefully removed from a Washington, D.C., park so he could allegedly pose for a photo op at a church near the White House.
The joint lawsuit by Black Lives Matter D.C. and several other protesters was dismissed Monday by U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, who wrote in her 51-page ruling that the plaintiffs had not shown evidence that the White House had plotted against the peaceful protesters by forcefully tossing them out of Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, National Public Radio reported.
- “These allegations, taken as true, do not show sufficient ‘events, conversations, or documents indicating an agreement or meeting of the minds’ amongst the defendants to violate (plaintiffs’) rights based on (their) membership in a protected class,” Friedrich wrote in her decision, according to NPR.
- “Merely alleging that the defendant officials communicated, without alleging any details of those communications that suggest an unlawful agreement,” was not enough to prove there had been a White House conspiracy, the judge added.
Friedrich also ruled that federal officials, including then-Attorney General William Barr and then-acting U.S. Park Police chief Gregory Monahan, were covered under the umbrella of qualified immunity, and were therefore impervious to civil action for damages, according to The New York Times.
- But the judge did not dismiss cases against local law enforcement agencies or challenges against banning protests at Lafayette Square (which is on the north side of the White House), The New York Times reported.
- Friedrich was appointed to the federal bench by Trump in December 2017.
We’ll be evaluating our legal options to ensure protestors are protected and cannot be attacked at the whim of a federal official. For our full statement: https://t.co/VRALdkTbfO— ACLU of the District of Columbia (@ACLU_DC) June 21, 2021
Judge’s ruling violates constitutional values, ACLU says
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington D.C., which represented the plaintiffs against the Trump administration, decried the ruling as violation of constitutional values.
- “Today’s ruling essentially gives the federal government a green light to use violence, including lethal force against demonstrators, as long as federal officials claim to be protecting national security,” Scott Michelman, the legal director of Washington’s ACLU, said in a statement Monday.
- “Under today’s decision, Lafayette Square is now a Constitution-free zone when it comes to the actions of federal officials. Not only is this decision a stunning rejection of our constitutional values and protesters’ First Amendment rights, but it effectively places federal officials above the law,” Michelman added.
Watch: Videos of Trump’s June 1, 2020, photo op
The Washington Post published a video timeline of law enforcement and military forces expelling protesters from Washington’s Lafayette Square.
- The video includes police communications the Post obtained from June 1, 2020.
- Watch that 12-minute video here: “A video timeline of the crackdown on protesters before Trump’s photo op: Visual Forensics”
C-SPAN published its own video of the photo op, which shows members of the media being shepherded, ahead of Trump, to St. John’s Episcopal Church.
- St. John’s, where Trump took his brief photo op, is across the street from the White House.
- Watch the nearly 8-minute video of Trump walking through Lafayette Square and the photo op here: “President Trump walks across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church”