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November 22, 2022

Unprovoked Federal officials attacked demonstrators near the White House thirty minutes before former President Trump posed for a photo holding a bible in front of a church

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, civil rights organizations representing protesters who were attacked with tear gas and other weapons outside the White House while demonstrating to protect Black lives and against police brutality in June 2020, urged a federal appeals court to revive their claims against former Attorney General William Barr, a U.S. Park Police incident commander, and other federal officers responsible for the brutal and unprovoked attack. The Trump Administration acknowledged that then-Attorney General William Barr gave the order to disperse the demonstrators. In 2021, a federal court dismissed all claims seeking monetary compensation from federal officers for the demonstrators' injuries. The court has reasoned that because presidential security concerns are always implicated by any federal law enforcement activity in Lafayette Square Park across the street from the White House, no claims for constitutional violations may proceed, no matter how severe the harm or how grave the violations.

In their appellate brief filed today, the plaintiffs argued that “[t]he district court’s blanket rejection of constitutional enforceability is sharply inconsistent with our constitutional structure and the rule of law,” because it effectively creates a “Constitution-free zone . . . in the heart of the Nation’s capital.”

“I joined this lawsuit to hold accountable the people involved in attacking demonstrators," said Kishon McDonald, a former U.S. Navy sailor plaintiff in the case. "I served this country so everyone could enjoy the freedoms granted to us under the Constitution. I should not have been attacked with tear gas and flash bangs when I was protesting for change. Holding the officers accountable for their vicious attack will ensure that this moment in history is not forgotten, and it will put federal officials on notice that they cannot trample our constitutional rights.”

On April 13, 2022, in a partial settlement of a different portion of the case, the federal government agreed to change the United States Park Police and the Secret Service policies relating to demonstrations.

The class action lawsuit 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 who were attacked without warning by officers using tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bang grenades. The protest occurred in the wake of former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd, and it called for an end to police brutality and racism. 


Additional information about the case, Black Lives Matter D.C. v. Trump, can be found here