Lawyers for the Department of Justice asked a federal judge to toss a lawsuit against former President Trump, former Attorney General William Barr and others for forcibly clearing Lafayette Square of Black Lives Matter protesters last June, arguing “presidential security is paramount.”
The Washington, DC, chapters of the American Civil Liberties Association, BLM and others brought the suit on behalf of protesters cleared from the area on June 1, 2020, before Trump walked across the square and posed, Bible in hand, in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“No officer has ever been denied immunity for clearing an area before an appearance by the president,” DOJ attorney John Martin told US District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich Friday.
The demonstrators argue that Trump, Barr and other officials violated their civil rights by ordering the US Park Police to deploy rubber bullets, flash bang grenades and tear gas to clear the area.
President Biden’s DOJ contends that the measures were necessary.
“Federal officers do not violate First Amendment rights by moving protesters a few blocks, even if the protesters are predominantly peaceful,” Martin said.
At the time, candidate Biden blasted Trump over the incident, issuing a campaign ad accusing him of being “afraid to look too weak” in the face of protests over the police custody murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
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