A federal judge on Monday ruled that Black Lives Matter protesters cannot sue former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General William Barr, and other Trump administration officials for dispersing a crowd of demonstrators and agitators at Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Square last summer.
Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, an appointee of Trump, however, allowed Black Lives Matter’s case to proceed against D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. As Friedrich dismissed the majority of the cases, she noted that access to Lafayette Square has been continually restricted for more than a year after the unrest.
“To this day, over a year after the events of June 1, Lafayette Square remains subject to heightened restrictions that periodically limit protesters’ access to the Square,” Friedrich wrote (pdf).
The lawsuit was brought against Trump administration officials by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in representing Black Lives Matter, which alleged that the federal government violated the protesters’ rights during the demonstrations. Following the death of George Floyd last year, protests and riots erupted across the United States, including the nation’s capital, leading to arson attempts, injuries to police officers, and other acts of vandalism.
In their suit, Black Lives Matter and the ACLU alleged that officers used tear gas and other crowd control measures to remove them from the area. Around that time, media outlets and Democrat officials claimed that Trump authorized the removal of the protesters so that he could get his photo taken while holding a Bible near St. John’s Church, but a report released earlier this month from the Department of the Interior’s inspector general rebuffed those allegations and did not find Trump administration officials acted in such a manner.
And Friedrich noted that officers’ acted out of “national security considerations” by removing the protesters, but she added that the D.C. and Arlington police departments could face a lawsuit for violating demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.
“First, national security—specifically, the country’s national-security interest in the safety and security of the President and the area surrounding the White House—strongly weighs against creating a … remedy here,” the judge wrote.
“In this context, it matters not whether the national security risk actually justified the particular action taken,” Friedrich’s ruling stated, while adding that the question is about “whether ‘national-security concerns’ were present in the decision-making process the federal officials faced and thus ‘whether the Judiciary should alter the framework established by the political branches for addressing [similar] cases.’”
Any decision about managing crowd activity close to the White House, located near Lafayette Square, would have to also consider “public, presidential, and White House security interests,” according to her ruling.
In response to the judge’s decision, ACLU regional legal director Scott Michelman criticized the ruling as one that would give too much power to the federal government.
“Under today’s decision, Lafayette Square is now a Constitution-free zone when it comes to the actions of federal officials,” Michelman wrote in a statement on Monday. “Not only is this decision a stunning rejection of our constitutional values and protestors’ First Amendment rights, but it effectively places federal officials above the law.”
The Epoch Times has contacted the ACLU for comment.