23:33 GMT28 November 2020
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    In a news release on Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with other civil rights groups, filed a lawsuit against US President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr and other federal officials for violating protesters’ constitutional rights by attacking them with tear gas and other weapons on Monday night.

    The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia by the ACLU, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the law firm of Arnold & Porter on behalf of Black Lives Matters DC and individual protesters. The suit accuses Trump and other administration officials of both violating and conspiring to deny protesters’ First and Fourth Amendment rights.

    “What happened to our members Monday evening, here in the nation’s capital, was an affront to all our rights,” said April Goggans, core organizer of Black Lives Matter DC, which is the lead plaintiff in the case, according to the news release. “The death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers has reignited the rage, pain, and deep sadness our community has suffered for generations. We won’t be silenced by tear gas and rubber bullets. Now is our time to be heard.”

    On Monday night, hundreds of lawful protesters congregated in Lafayette Park in front of the White House were violently dispersed by police using chemical irritants, rubber bullets and sound cannons so that the president could walk to the St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street from the White House to take pictures in front of the historic building with a Bible.

    “The President’s shameless, unconstitutional, unprovoked, and frankly criminal attack on protesters because he disagreed with their views shakes the foundation of our nation’s constitutional order,” Scott Michelman, legal director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia, said in the release. “And when the nation’s top law enforcement officer becomes complicit in the tactics of an autocrat, it chills protected speech for all of us.”

    Multiple attacks by US police against peaceful demonstrators have occurred in the aftermath of Floyd’s brutal killing. Police have driven vans into throngs of protesters, pepper-sprayed them and also arrested thousands.

    “Across the country, law enforcement armed with military weaponry are responding with violence to people who are protesting police brutality,” Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in the release. “The First Amendment right to protest is under attack, and we will not let this go unanswered. This is the first of many lawsuits the ACLU intends to file across the country in response to police brutality against protesters.”

    On Wednesday, the president denied that he had ordered that protesters be removed so that he could visit the church.

    "When I went, I didn't say, 'Oh, move them out' — I didn't know who was there," Trump said during an interview on Fox News Radio. "I figured I was going to walk over to the church, very nearby.”


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