On Tuesday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., dismissed a number of claims leveled at former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General William Barr, and other U.S. government and Washington, D.C., officials over what Black Lives Matter and the American Civil Liberties Union claimed was an unnecessary show of force in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, last year.
The Washington Post reported that the plaintiffs, including BLM and the ACLU, claimed that “the government used unnecessary force to enable a photo op of President Donald Trump holding a Bible outside of the historical St. John’s Church.”
“U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington called allegations that federal officials conspired to make way for the photo too speculative,” the outlet continued.
The judge also said that Barr and then-Park Police chief Gregory T. Monahan were acting within the scope of their duties and, as such, are immune from civil suits. She later added that the Black Lives Matter organization did not have standing to sue because it could not prove that it was directly harmed by the president’s walkabout or an earlier decision by Park Police to push protesters further from the White House.
The claims, the judge said, relied on “conclusory allegations” that “Trump, Barr and then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper directed a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of demonstrators just before the park was cleared.”
“Friedrich acknowledged claims that Trump tweeted threats and encouragement of violence against protesters, and ordered Barr take charge of the situation before Barr mobilized law enforcement and appeared at the square just before it was cleared,” The Washington Post reported. “The judge also said the square was cleared right before Trump, Barr, and Esper’s walk to the church. But these events weren’t enough to allow conspiracy claims to go forward without further, specific factual allegations, Friedrich wrote.”
She also refused, Politico added, to grant protesters an injunction against further action on the part of the federal government — a request that could, essentially, allow them to avoid arrest.
“The plaintiffs’ claims of impending future harm are too speculative to confer standing to seek an injunction,” the judge noted.
In their suit, BLM and the ACLU claimed that Park Police “officers attacked and improperly dispersed the protesters—they did not restrain them or attempt to seize them in place…,” but the judge responded that “quite the opposite was true—the officers attempted to cause the protestors and fleeing crowd to leave their location, rather than cause them to remain there.”
The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior found, earlier this month, that a decision was made to expand the perimeter in Lafayette Square and press protesters back before President Trump decided to take a walkabout, traveling from the White House across the square to St. Paul’s Church, which sustained some fire damage in earlier aggressive protests. Park Police, the report notes, were, in some cases, surprised that to see the president.
“The evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the [United States Park Police] cleared the park to allow the president to survey the damage and walk to St. John’s Church. Instead, the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install the antiscale fencing in response to the destruction of property and injury to officers occurring on May 30 and 31,” the Inspector General’s report read.
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