Black Lives Matter argued in court papers this week that a federal report exonerating former President Trump from ordering the clearing of protesters in Lafayette Square last year contradicts prior justifications by officials who said the use of tear gas was authorized “to protect the President’s safety.”
The social justice group is asking the U.S. District Court in Washington not to dismiss its case, saying the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General report is incompatible with the government’s argument presented before the judge last month.
“The invocation of presidential security was just a pretext for an attack motivated by racial animus,” the American Civil Liberties Union, representing BLM, said Tuesday in a court filing.
“Now, the Inspector General’s report contradicts Defendants’ claim that their actions were all about presidential security,” the ACLU said.
The ACLU sued members of the Trump administration after an incident on June 1 last year, alleging that the president and his team conspired to violate the constitutional rights of protesters gathered near the White House.
The event sparking the legal battle occurred when Mr. Trump walked from the White House across Lafayette Square to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which earlier had been partially set on fire during protests.
The activists had gathered in Lafayette Square days earlier for protests following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.
Media pundits were quick to criticize the federal agents and the former president for the heavy-handed response against the activists.
The lawsuit claims that federal officers attacked the protesters with tear gas and other crowd-control weapons. The Metropolitan Police Department also is named as a defendant in the suit.
Both the federal government and the District of Columbia have moved to dismiss the case.
Bolstering the government’s claim, the IG report last week found that Mr. Trump did not order the removal of the protesters so he could walk from the White House to the church for a photo op.
Instead, the report concluded that the U.S. Park Service had the authority to disperse the protesters and did so to construct a fence, which was completed by 12:30 a.m. the following day.
It also said the feds did not use tear gas at Lafayette Park, but the MPD did use tear gas nearby.
Mr. Trump celebrated the findings by the IG.
“As we have said all along, and it was backed up in today’s highly detailed and professionally written report, our fine Park Police made the decision to clear the park to allow a contractor to safely install a antiscale fencing to protect from Antifa rioters, radical BLM protestors, and other violent demonstrators who are causing chaos and death to our cities,” the former president said.
The Justice Department, which is defending the lawsuit under President Biden, declined to comment on the legal battle.
Oral arguments in the case were held at the U.S. District Court for the District on May 28 before Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, a Trump appointee.
The lawsuit is still pending.