Black Lives Matter D.C. Expands Lawsuit for Lafayette Square Attack on Peaceful Protestors

By Ayana Byrd Jun 10, 2020

After the world watched uniformed officers tear gas and use batons on peaceful protestors so that Donald Trump could walk through Lafayette Square for a photo op, Black Lives Matter DC filed a lawsuit against the president, Attorney General William Barr and other senior White House officials for violating their constitutional rights. The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as well as some of the agency’s officers, have now been added as defendants after news reports revealed they were at the protest as well, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

On June 1, thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., one of many protests against police brutality happening around the world in the aftermath of George Floyds death by a Minneapolis police officer. The Washington Post reports:

Last Monday, shortly before President Trump began speaking from the White House Rose Garden, members of the U.S. Park Police and the National Guard began sweeping protesters out of Lafayette Square using tear gas, horses, batons, riot shields and explosive devices. The attack on the protesters was surprising in its ferocity, particularly given that the protest appeared to be vocal but peaceful and a city-mandated curfew was still 30 minutes away.

Three days later on June 4, the lawsuit Black Lives Matter D.C. v. Trump was filed by The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU of the District of Columbia and the law firm of Arnold & Porter. “The lawsuit says the dispersal of the park amounts to violations of the First and Fourth Amendments,” reports NPR. It continues:

"It is precisely such domination—in the form of centuries of white supremacy and subjugation of Black lives – that was the core focus of the peaceful demonstration in Lafayette Square," the lawsuit says, connecting law enforcement actions that day to events like the Tulsa Race Massacre, Bloody Sunday, Ferguson and other "violence against Black people and their supporters committed by state actors. What differentiates the actions here from the others is that the President and Attorney General of the United States ordered the violence."

The lawsuit was also amended today to seek class status to represent the hundreds of people who were at the protest. “This lawsuit is about more than the injuries to our members and to our fellow plaintiffs," April Goggans, core organizer of Black Lives Matter-DC and the lead plaintiff in the case, said in a statement through the ACLU. "It is about the wanton violence inflicted on hundreds of people who gathered at the White House to deliver the urgent message that Black Lives Matter. And it is about the generations of Black people and their allies who have been attacked by government authorities for trying to deliver that message.”