Feds settle BLM-Lafayette Square lawsuit

US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible in front of St. John

Then-President Donald Trump holds a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church across from Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images.)

Two federal agencies have agreed to settle a civil lawsuit brought by protesters and activists who were evicted from Lafayette Square in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020 as they protested the deaths of George Floyd Jr.the US Department of Justice announced on Wednesday.

The case styled as Black Lives Matter DC vs Trumpended with a right of termination. The document names various federal defendants in their official capacities — “the President of the United States, the United States Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Chief of the US Parks Police, the Director of US Intelligence, the Commanding General of the DC National Guard and Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons” — agreed to drop the litigation, “with each party bearing its own fees and costs.”

according to a third amended complaintthe named plaintiffs were Black Lives Matter DC and Tony Sanders, JNC, Kison McDonald, Garret Bond, Keara Scallan, Lia Potet, Dustin Foleyand EXF, a number of individual demonstrators suing “on their own behalf and on behalf of everyone else in a similar situation”. Two minors, identified by the above initials, sued through their parents.

That named defendants were president at the time donald trumpAttorney General William BarrSecretary of Defense Markus EsperActing Chief of Police for the US Parks Gregory T MonahanDirector of Intelligence James M MurrayMajor General of the DC National Guard. William J WalkerDirector of the Prisons Office Michael CarvajalCity Police Chief Peter Neuhamand a collection of Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officers — some of whom were named, some of whom were identified only by helmet or arm badge numbers.

Law enforcement respond during a protest near Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump's trip to St. John's Church June 1, 2020 in downtown Washington, DC (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.)

Law enforcement respond during a protest near Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church June 1, 2020 in downtown Washington, DC (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.)

“This case is about the President and Attorney General of the United States ordering the use of force against peaceful protesters who have spoken out against discriminatory police brutality against black people,” he said Opening salvo of the lawsuit announced.

That document raised the names of Floyd, Eric Garnerand BreonaTaylorand it claimed that “a group of protesters, including the plaintiffs, gathered peacefully in Lafayette Square to protest the gross, systemic injustices being perpetrated by law enforcement against black people in the United States.”

That legal action then went on like this:

Without provocation, the federal and Arlington County defendants fired tear gas, pepper spray cans, rubber bullets, and stun grenades into the crowd (or ordered them to be dismissed) and physically assaulted the protesters in an attempt to disrupt the peaceful assembly and force the protesters to flee the area. Protesters fleeing west of the plaza were quickly met by a formation of defendants officers from the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, who also fired tear gas at the fleeing protesters. Many peaceful demonstrators were injured, some seriously, by this coordinated and unprovoked attack.

The defendants had no legitimate basis to disrupt the peaceful assembly. Defendants’ stated purpose – to clear the area so the President could go to a photo op at a nearby church – was an entirely illegal reason for curtailing the constitutional rights of plaintiffs and others gathered in Lafayette Square . In fact, the President has consistently shown hostility to viewpoints other than his own, and in the days and moments leading up to the attack stated his intention to violently target and “dominate” protesters.

it then written down that the DOJ later “officially acknowledged that Defendant Barr ordered the evacuation of Lafayette Square minutes before the attack began.”

“The Defendant Barr issued this order following a series of statements by the Defendant Trump in the days and hours leading up to this attack in which he clearly threatened and encouraged the use of force against protesters,” the lawsuit alleges.

Law enforcement gathered in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images.)

Law enforcement gathered in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images.)

That document also alleged various violations of the First Amendment plaintiffs’ right to speak, assemble, and petition the government, violations of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from improper seizures, and several other matters and causes of action (eg. biven acts, 42 USC § 1985(3) violations; 42 USC § 1986 matters; and 42 USC § 1983 editions). A total of ten counts of charges were filed over the third amended complaint.

Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated “First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, 42 USC §§ 1983, 1985 and 1986,” injunctions ordering each defendant to “cease involvement in the illegal acts described herein.” , compensatory damages, punitive damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.

A comparison says – as usual – that the plaintiffs and the defendants agreed to settle the matter “without any admission of liability”. It vaguely refers to “other consideration, good and valuable, the receipt and appropriateness of which is hereby acknowledged,” but the paperwork does not directly indicate that money changed hands.

“As part of the settlement,” the DOJ announced in a press release what that reflects court documentsPark Police and Intelligence “agreed to update and clarify their policies on demonstrations” and “to implement the policy changes within 30 days of today’s agreement.”

“Changes to agency policies include more specific requirements for visible identification of officers, limits on the use of non-lethal force, and procedures to facilitate safe crowd dispersal,” the DOJ said specified.

Among the agreed upon matters is that U.S. park officers “must wear fully visible insignia and nameplates, including on outerwear, tactical gear and helmets,” according to the DOJ continued.

The Secret Service, meanwhile, will update its guidelines “to ensure that the fact that some protesters engaged in unlawful conduct does not normally constitute a blanket reason for the use of force, crowd dispersal, or declaration of an unlawful assembly.” according to the DOJ added.

Federal officials responded positively to the announcement.

“The federal government is committed to the highest standards of protection of civil rights and civil liberties in any federal law enforcement response to public demonstrations,” said the assistant attorney general Vanita Gupta said in a statement. “These changes to the authorities’ protest response policies will strengthen our commitment to protecting and respecting constitutionally protected rights.”

“From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the sidewalk of the White House, the National Park Service takes great pride in caring for some of our nation’s most iconic public spaces,” said the director Chuck Sam’s of the national park service. “We hope this updated policy can serve as a model for others to uphold civil rights and enable safe demonstrations. It’s good for the public and good for our officers. The United States Park Police is committed to enabling people to gather safely to express our most fundamental and valued right to free speech. This updated policy is intended to be accessible and understandable to both our officers and the general public and further strengthens that commitment.”

“We appreciate the Park Police and Secret Service for their efforts to continually review and revise their law enforcement policies to further develop and protect those who seek to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said Matthew M Graves, US Attorney for the District of Columbia. “These revisions to our law enforcement partners’ policies will further protect those rights.”

Black Lives Matter DC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Law&Crime.

The settlement and the full Justice Department press release have been combined into a single document below:

[images as noted]

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James Brien

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