The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced that it is suing President Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr on behalf of Black Lives Matter. They are accusing the administration of violating the civil rights of protesters who were removed in order to make way for the president as he crossed Lafayette Park to St. John's Episcopal Church on Monday.
The lengthy lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, accused Trump, Barr, and other federal officials of violating the protesters' constitutional rights and taking part in an unlawful conspiracy when crossing Lafayette Park, near the White House, days earlier, according to the New York Post.
"What happened to our members Monday evening, here in the nation's capital, was an affront to all our rights," Black Lives Matter DC core organizer April Goggans said in a statement.
"The death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers has reignited the rage, pain and deep sadness our community has suffered for generations. We won't be silenced by tear gas and rubber bullets."
US Park Police and other members of law enforcement officers nudged protesters and journalists away from Lafayette Park before Trump's Rose Garden appearance. Trump then walked to St. John's Episcopal Church that had been fire-damaged by rioters who belong to a number of far-left extremist groups.
"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," Scott Michelman, ACLU of the District of Columbia legal director, said. "And when the nation's top law enforcement officer becomes complicity in the tactics of an autocrat, it chills protected speech for all of us."
The lawsuit seeks an order declaring that Trump and others violated the First and Fourth Amendment rights of the protesters, including damages for the plaintiffs, according to the ACLU.
Trump defended the visit two days later in saying that he was not aware that protesters would need to be cleared out of his way ahead of his visit to St. John's.
Meanwhile, Barr described his decision to remove the protesters, saying that there was a need to extend a perimeter around the White House on Monday to protect federal property and law enforcement officials.
"There were projectiles being thrown and it was becoming increasingly unruly," Barr added on Thursday. "They were asked three times if they would move back one block. They refused and we proceeded to move our perimeter."
Initial reports that tear gas were used to clear the park were later refuted.