June 2, 2020; NBC News, “Politics”
Even as military leaders oppose troops being called to violate protesters’ constitutional rights, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Trump administration on Thursday, alleging that their rights were violated when they were forcibly evicted from Lafayette Square in the now-iconic photo of the president holding up a bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal church.
BLM is alleging a conspiracy and violations of their First and Fourth Amendment rights in authorities’ use of flash-bang shells, tear gas, smoke canisters, pepper balls, and rubber bullets on the crowd.
“The conspiracy targeted Plaintiffs’ protected First Amendment activities because Defendants held animus towards Plaintiffs’ viewpoints,” the lawsuit says. “The violent actions of the conspirators directly and unlawfully interfered with these activities.”
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BLM and the ACLU are asking for a jury trial in the case, according to the suit filed in the US District Court for Washington DC. The groups are also asking for a judge to grant relief, issuing an injunction to stop the administration from continued use of force against protesters.
“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,” according to the suit.
US Attorney General William Barr held a press conference yesterday to defend the administration’s use of force. “On Monday we were still facing very large demonstrations that were belligerent and throwing projectiles,” he said, adding, “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.”
Reporters present at the protest dispute those claims of violence.—Ruth McCambridge