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Black Lives Matter, ACLU Sue Trump Administration Over Use of Force

America Protests Washington
Members of the DC National Guard, U.S. Park Police and U.S. Secret Service watch from Lafayette Park as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Black Lives Matter filed a lawsuit against President Trump and his administration on Thursday, arguing that their civil rights and First Amendment right were violated when peaceful protesters were forced out of Lafayette Square, near the White House, so he could take a photo in front of a church.

Protesters demonstrating against police violence in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing were allegedly forced out of the square in Washington, D.C., on Monday by U.S. Park Police and the National Guard.

Journalists also reported that the otherwise peaceful demonstration was cut short by authorities using horses, projectiles and gas to force them to leave.

The president left the White House shortly thereafter and stopped at St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he posed for a photo with a Bible.

The D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter made the complaint in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union. They say the administration violated their First Amendment and Fourth rights, which protect the right to protest and protect against unreasonable search and seizure.

According to the suit, authorities fired flash-bang shells, tear gas, smoke canisters, pepper balls, and rubber bullets into the crowd.

However, U.S. Park Police has disputed claims that its officers used tear gas on protesters during the incident.

The lawsuit also claims that the administration committed a conspiracy to deprive them of their civil rights and protections.

“The conspiracy targeted Plaintiffs’ protected First Amendment activities because Defendants held animus towards Plaintiffs’ viewpoints,” the lawsuit said. “The violent actions of the conspirators directly and unlawfully interfered with these activities.”

BLM and the ACLU are asking for a jury trial in the case, according to suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C.. They are also asking for a judge to grant relief by issuing an injunction to stop the administration from continued use of force against protesters.

“Defendants’ actions to shut down the Lafayette Square demonstration is the manifestation of the very despotism against which the First Amendment was intended to protect,” the suit said.

Attorney General William Barr, who is named in the lawsuit, defended the use of force on Thursday and alleged that the administration was provoked by increasing violence at the scene.

“On Monday we were still facing very large demonstrations that were belligerent and throwing projectiles,” Barr said, adding that “it’s very important to use sufficient forces — law enforcement to establish law and order in a city when you have riots running. If you use insufficient resources, it’s dangerous for everybody.”