Judge Throws Out All Claims Against Federal Officials for Police Attack on Peaceful Demonstrators in Lafayette Park

June 21, 2021

Gregg Kelley, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs [email protected], (202) 319-1070

WASHINGTON – A federal judge today dismissed constitutional claims against former attorney general William Barr and other federal officials who ordered or participated in the violent June 1, 2020, attack on civil rights protestors at Lafayette Square Park near the White House. Today’s decision held that federal officials cannot be sued for monetary compensation for violating constitutional rights whenever they do so against a crowd near the White House. Following the attack, President Trump staged a photo op of himself holding a Bible in front of a church.

“A year ago, protesters came together in DC and around the country to lift up their voices against the assault and killing by police of Black people.  Those protesters were violently attacked consistent with a long history of violently suppressing civil rights protests.  Today’s decision, which excused the federal government of any wrongdoing, sends a dangerous message that federal officers are above the law” said Kaitlin Banner, deputy legal director at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

The ruling permitted First Amendment claims to proceed against District of Columbia officers who deployed tear gas against demonstrators fleeing the federal attack because the D.C. officers were local rather than federal. But the Court also ruled that the Fourth Amendment does not protect against excessive force used to disperse people rather than to detain them.

The case was brought by the ACLU of the District of Columbia, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the law firm of Arnold & Porter on behalf of Black Lives Matter D.C. and eight civil rights demonstrators, including two children, who were attacked without provocation or warning by officers using tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bang grenades. The protest occurred in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and called for an end to police brutality and racism.

The decision can be found here.

The original filing press release can be found here.


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ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: Founded in 1968, The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org or call 202.319.1000. Follow us on Twitter at @WashLaw4CR.

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