Black Lives Matter group sues Donald Trump for forcefully evicting protestors from park
The lawsuit, filed by civil rights groups on behalf of Black Lives Matter and individual protestors who were evicted, alleges violation of the protestors First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly and Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable seizure.Updated: Jun 05, 2020 22:48 IST
As barricades around the White House grew longer and more forbidding Thursday, protestors hit the US President Donald Trump administration with a lawsuit over the forcible eviction of protestors from an adjoining park to clear way for the leader to walk to a historic church nearby for a photo-op.
The lawsuit, filed by civil rights groups on behalf of Black Lives Matter and individual protestors who were evicted, alleges violation of the protestors First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly and Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable seizure.
It has been filed by name against President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr - who has accepted responsibility for the action - and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had cleared the deployment of US military personnel and assets in the area, and heads of law enforcement agencies involved in the incident.
“What happened to our members Monday evening, here in the nation’s capital, was an affront to all our rights,” said April Goggans of Black Lives Matter, the lead plaintiff in the case.
Law enforcement forces used tear gas, flash-bang grenades and pepper spray canisters that Monday to clear people demonstrating peacefully in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, so Trump could walk to the St John’s Episcopal Church that had been damaged in protests, for a photo-op, with a Bible in hand and his top officials by his side.
It was intended to counter the uncharitable response the president had received for being rushed by the Secret Service into an underground bunker as protestors had swelled outside a few days before.
The Lafayette Park action has since become a rallying point for critics of the president’s handling of the protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, in police custody in Minneapolis.
“The president’s shameless, unconstitutional, unprovoked, and frankly criminal attack on protesters because he disagreed with their views shakes the foundation of our nation’s constitutional order,” said Scott Michelman, legal director at the DC unit of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed the lawsuit in a DC federal court.
Jim Mattis, the former defense secretary,” called the president the “first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people”.
Facing all-around criticism, including from some Republican lawmakers, Trump, Barr and Esper have since tried to deny responsibility for it. The president has said he did not order the protestors to be removed. “Now, when I went, I didn’t say ‘Oh, move them out’. I didn’t know who was there.”
Esper was the first to distance himself from the action and use of US military reservists of the National Guard.
Barr has accepted responsibility for ordering the action, but insisted it was not connected to the president’s walk to the church. “I did not know that he was going to do that until later in the day after our plans were well underway to move the perimeter,” Barr has said.
Protests around the country have been far more peaceful than in the earlier days. However, they show no signs of abating. Videos of aggressive police actions from those have gone viral, triggering shockwaves around the world. One of the many videos out of New York city shows officers use the door of their squad cars to slam protestors. In Florida, officers were filmed shooting a man on the ground with rubber bullets. A North Carolina lawyer has compiled over 280 videos of excessive police action on Twitter.
In New York city, physicians, nurses and other hospital workers who have been working with Covid-10 patients staged protests outside multiple hospitals. “With our stethoscopes and white coats, we promised to do no harm and we must find the voice within us to break the silence like we are doing today,” Kamini Doobay, MD, an emergency medicine resident at NYU Langone Health and Bellevue Hospital, said at one of these protests, according to a report in Medpage Today. “Not doing is doing when you see injustice and turn away, and that is why, we are here to stand with black lives.”