A federal judge handed former President Donald Trump a huge win yesterday and Black Lives Matter a big loss. The judge ruled in Trump’s favor dismissing a lawsuit saying Trump can’t be sued for the forceful clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square last year.
US District Judge Dabney Friedrich said in dismissing claims that Trump, Barr, and Esper directed a conspiracy targeting black protesters: “Merely alleging that the defendant officials communicated, without alleging any details of those communications that suggest an unlawful agreement, cannot justify inferring the requisite agreement” for a conspiracy.
Friedrich said the evidence failed to find an “agreement or meeting of the minds” that would have violated the rights of protesters.
“Here, the management of possible violence, enforcement of the impending curfew, and policing of demonstrators in Lafayette Square in advance of the President’s travel across the Square generate ‘obvious alternative explanation[s]’… for the defendants’ communications and activities other than having formed an agreement to violate the plaintiffs’ civil rights,” Friedrich wrote.
Scott Michelman, legal director of the DC branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said:
“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.
“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.”
Friedrich wrote that the plaintiffs had failed to stitch together enough evidence at this stage of the case to show there was a conspiracy among Trump, Barr, and other federal officials to violate the rights of Black people and their supporters.
The challengers separately argued that Barr and other senior officials should be individually liable for their role in deploying officers to the square, similar to how federal law enforcement officers can be sued for violating people’s civil rights, but Friedrich ruled that type of claim couldn’t apply to this “new context.”
Donald Trump and a cadre of current and former federal officials can’t be sued over the violent clearing of peaceful protesters from a park in Washington, DC, last summer shortly before the then-president passed through for a photo op, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Black Lives Matter DC and individual protesters who were forcibly removed from Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, had sued Trump, former attorney general Bill Barr, and top officials from other federal agencies involved in clearing the park, along with local police from Washington and Arlington, Virginia, who were deployed to the square.
In a 51-page decision, US District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled the claims against local officers could go forward but dismissed all but one against the federal defendants.
Now: A judge ruled Black Lives Matter DC and others can't sue Trump, Barr, and other federal officials involved in the clearing of Lafayette Square last summer (except to challenge ongoing restrictions to the area); claims against DC + Arlington survive https://t.co/wSnRyaVIkc pic.twitter.com/FblWTSYDoW— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) June 21, 2021
Story: Trump, Barr, and other federal officials can't be sued over the violent clearing of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square last summer, a federal judge ruled today https://t.co/oWOhNvY7tv— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) June 21, 2021
A big part of the case came down to whether the judge believed that a type of claim used to sue individual federal officers for constitutional violations, known as a Bivens action, could apply to someone like former AG Barr in this situation — the judge concluded it could not— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) June 21, 2021