On Tuesday, a Washington D.C. federal judge dismissed claims targeted at former President Donald Trump as well as former Attorney General William Barr and several Washington D.C and U.S. government officials over what the American Civil Liberties Union and Black Lives Matter claimed was a needless show of force last year in Lafayette Square directly across from the White House.
The Washington Post reports that the plaintiffs, BLM and ACLU, claim that the government used unnecessary force in order to clear the path for a photo op of President Trump with a Bible in front of the historical building of St. John’s Church.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said that the allegations laid on ground that was “too speculative” and added that then-Park Police chief Gregory Monahan and Barr were both acting within the normal scope of their duties and therefore are immune from civil lawsuit. She added that BLM had no grounds for a suit because they could not demonstrate any way in which they were directly harmed by the president’s walkabout, nor harmed by the earlier decision of Park Police to increase the standoff distance between protesters and the White House.
The claims, according to the judge, rely on “conclusory allegations” against “Trump, Barr, [and others]” that a conspiracy was put together to violate demonstrators’ civil rights. She added that “The plaintiffs’ claims. . . are too speculative. . . to seek an injunction,” meaning that protestors are not immune from actions they committed that could lead to arrest.
The BLM and ACLU suit claims that Park Police violently “attacked and improperly dispersed” the crowd but the judge said upon review of the evidence that “quite the opposite was true.”
The current Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Dept. of the Interior discovered earlier in the month that a decision was made prior to Trump’s walkabout to expand the perimeter of Lafayette Square. In an official statement from that office, they claim to have found no evidence to support the suggestion that the park was cleared in order to facilitate Trump’s walk to St. John’s Church, rather it was done to make way for the installation of an antiscale fence perimeter as a reasonable response to protest damage, destruction of property, vandalism, and injury against officers that occurred on May 30th and 31st.
Author: Sylvia Schneider