Civil Rights Groups To Federal Court: New Report “Directly Contradicts a Central Factual Contention” of Government’s Lawyers in the Case of Demonstrators Attacked at Lafayette Square
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2021
Today, attorneys for Black Lives Matters D.C. and the civil rights demonstrators attacked last June by federal officers in Lafayette Square argued in a filing to a federal court that the Interior Department Inspector General’s new report demonstrates why the demonstrators’ lawsuit should not be dismissed.
As the brief explains, the Inspector General report released last week “directly contradicts a central factual contention” of the federal officer defendants, who have argued in court that their actions, including the use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and flash bombs, cannot be subject to constitutional challenge because they were carried out “to protect the President’s safety.” Regardless of the motive, the violent attack on demonstrators without warning cannot be constitutionally justified.
David Brody, Senior Counsel, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
“The government has spent more than a year now trying to sell various different stories to the public to try to explain its obviously unconstitutional actions. The government’s shifting explanations show that the events of last June require a full hearing in court, not dismissal.”
Kaitlin Banner, Deputy Legal Director, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs:
“This case has always been about accountability. The kind of assault that happened on June 1, is uniquely preserved for Black demonstrators and those seeking racial justice. Whether federal officers beat and gassed civil rights demonstrators for a photo-op or to build a fence, its wanton violence was inexcusable and unjustifiable, and a court must get to the bottom of what happened that day and why.”
John Freedman, Senior Pro Bono Counsel, Arnold & Porter:
“Last week’s report underscores that the court should not accept the government’s claim that the violence deployed to scatter civil rights demonstrators was in any way justified by assertions of presidential security. Ultimately, the case must be decided on facts found by a jury, not statements in legal briefs.”
Scott Michelman, Legal Director, ACLU of the District of Columbia:
“The government has always been wrong that any assertion of a security rationale gives them a blank check to run roughshod over demonstrators. Last week’s report further undermines that position by casting doubt on the whole premise of the government’s argument.”
A federal court heard argument on May 28 on the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case. A decision remains pending.