Judge dismisses most claims over clearing protesters in DC park

Claims against two law enforcement agencies, however, have been allowed to proceed.

Donald Trump holds a Bible outside St John’s Church
Donald Trump holds a Bible outside St John’s Church

A US judge has dismissed a majority of the claims filed by activists who accused the Trump administration of violating the civil rights of protesters forcefully removed from a Washington park before then-president Donald Trump walked to a church for a photo opportunity.

US District Judge Dabney Friedrich said on Monday the claims in the suit, which alleged Mr Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr conspired to violate the rights of protesters last June, were speculative and it was premature for the court to conclude whether the actions of police were justified.

Mr Friedrich dismissed the claims against Mr Barr and other federal officials, including the acting US Park Police chief, Gregory Monahan, finding there was insufficient evidence to prove any agreement or plan to violate the protesters’ rights. The judge also said the law gave them immunity in civil litigation.

In a 51-page decision, the judge did allow the claims against the Metropolitan Police Department and the Arlington Police Department — their officers were involved in clearing the park — to proceed.

Racial Injustice Trump Photo Op
Donald Trump in his infamous photo opportunity (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The lawsuit stemmed from one of the most high-profile moments of the Trump presidency, when federal and local law enforcement officials aggressively forced a group of largely peaceful protesters back from Lafayette Square outside of the White House, firing smoke bombs and pepper balls into the crowd to disperse the group.

Officers were seen shoving protesters and journalists as they pushed the crowd back.

Mr Barr has said he met with other law enforcement officials earlier that day to review a plan to extend the security perimeter around the White House to protect federal agents after days of unrest in Washington following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.

After the crowd was forcefully dispersed, Mr Trump, followed by an entourage of his most senior aides — including Mr Barr — along with Secret Service agents and reporters, walked to St John’s Church, a landmark building where every president has prayed, which had been damaged a day earlier in a protest fire.

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