The Black Lives Matter organisation is suing the federal government and Donald Trump over their treatment of peaceful protesters in Washington D.C.
The Washington chapter of the movement have filed a lawsuit accusing officers of violating the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters, after authorities forcibly cleared the demonstrators out of a park so Trump could get to a photo op at a nearby church.
The lawsuit, filed yesterday, June 4, accuses the officers involved of attacking demonstrators without warning, as well as using incendiary devices to the clear the crowds, such as flashbangs, tear gas, smoke canisters and pepper spray.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington D.C. as BuzzFeed News reports, reads:
This case is about the President and Attorney General of the United States ordering the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators who were speaking out against discriminatory police brutality targeted at Black people.
The incident occurred on Monday, June 1. As Trump was making a speech in front of reporters at the White House’s Rose Garden, the sound of law enforcement dispersing crowds from the nearby park could be clearly heard. US Park Police – and other officers from the US Secret Service, the DC National Guard, the Arlington County police, and the US Army military police, according to the lawsuit – had deployed ‘smoke canisters and pepper balls’ in order to disperse a crowd of protesters who had gathered in Lafayette Square.
The lawsuit states the incident happened before the city’s 7.00pm curfew.
This is said to be one of the first lawsuits looking to hold city, state and federal law enforcement to account for alleged misconduct during the protests taking place across America in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
As well as the Black Lives Matter chapter, those bringing the case forward include a mother who was in the park at the time with her nine-year-old daughter, along with others, who say they now fear going outside to exercise their right to free speech.
The US Park Police claim demonstrators in the park had thrown objects such as bricks, water bottles and ‘caustic liquids’, though media present at the time say the protesters were peaceful.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said it is investigating the incident, as well as numerous other law enforcement operations carried out during this time, BuzzFeed News reports.
Minnesota’s ACLU, for example, has already filed a lawsuit against Minneapolis police, accusing them of violating constitutional rights of journalists covering the demonstrations.
More than 11,000 people have been arrested across America during the protests and demonstrations over the past week.
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