Black Lives Matter sues Trump administration over use of force on protesters

Black Lives Matter has sued the Trump administration over Monday’s siege outside the White House, where U.S. forces launched gas and rubber bullets to disperse peaceful protesters who were gathered in the memory of George Floyd.

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The American activist organization, whose existence was sparked after the 2014 police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, claims its civil rights were violated when U.S. Park Police and the National Guard "fired flash-bang shells, tear gas, smoke canisters, pepper balls and rubber bullets into the crowd," the lawsuit states, according to NBC News.

The chaotic scene in Lafayette Square was later defended by Attorney General William Barr, who ordered the removal of the crowd to clear the way for President Donald Trump to walk a block to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he posed for photos as he held up a Bible.

“On Monday, we were still facing very large demonstrations that were belligerent and throwing projectiles,” Barr said, adding that “it’s very important to use sufficient forces, law enforcement, to establish law and order in a city when you have riots running. If you use insufficient resources, it’s dangerous for everybody.”

Barr is named in the suit.

Specifics of the lawsuit 

Filed by the Washington, D.C., chapter of BLM and the American Civil Liberties Union, the lawsuit claims the administration’s actions violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights, which protect the right to protest and against unreasonable search and seizure.

“The conspiracy targeted Plaintiffs’ protected First Amendment activities because Defendants held animus towards Plaintiffs’ viewpoints,” says the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “The violent actions of the conspirators directly and unlawfully interfered with these activities.”

The action requests a jury trial and also asks a judge to issue an injunction that would prohibit a similar move by the administration.

“Defendants’ actions to shut down the Lafayette Square demonstration is the manifestation of the very despotism against which the First Amendment was intended to protect,” the suit said, according to NBC.

What exactly happened? 

As Trump prepared to give a speech in the Rose Garden, Barr assessed the scene from outside the White House gates as thousands of protesters gathered in Lafayette Park, fenced off by police troops.

By all accounts, the crowd was peaceful, unlike the previous days of unrest that led to violence and arrests in front of the White House, which Trump called “a total disgrace” in his Monday speech where he blamed the radical leftist movement Antifa.

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Previously, during a Friday night protest, the first family had to be moved to an underground bunker for about an hour as the situation escalated.

Before the president spoke Monday, nine large military trucks carrying troops with helmets rolled up and parked outside the White House.

Moments after Trump declared himself “an ally of all peaceful protesters,” the wild scene erupted across the street on national television. Explosions could be heard in the Rose Garden as Trump threatened to declare martial law to quickly end violent protests that had gripped the nation for days.

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After the smoke cleared, Trump emerged and walked a block to the church, which had been damaged in more fierce demonstrations the night before.

The president was escorted to the church by dozens of armed Secret Service agents and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who later faced criticism for his presence alongside Trump. On Wednesday, Esper said he was not aware of Monday’s police operation in the park and that he believed the visit to the church was intended to survey the damage there.

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In front of the historic church entrance, however, Trump stood for photographs with a Bible raised in his right hand.

The White House later said the president wanted to honor the establishment on the day after protesters set a small fire inside the building, which is more than 200 years old.

Episcopal leaders later expressed outrage over Trump's visit, saying he used "one of our churches as a prop."