In the wake of widespread protests and riots over much of last summer, the Black Lives Matter organization took former President Donald Trump and top administration officials to court over alleged civil rights violations.
In a ruling this week, however, Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected claims that Trump fomented a racially motivated conspiracy and dismissed claims for damages and other relief.
“Target black people and their supporters”
The federal judge, who was appointed by Trump, delivered the latest blow to an already debunked narrative that the former president played a role in forcibly clearing protesters from Lafayette Square last year.
The lawsuit claimed that the “professed purpose” for dispersing the crowd was to stage a “photo op” for the then-president in front of a nearby historic church.
Earlier this month, however, the prevailing media narrative imploded when the Interior Department concluded that Trump played no role in the decision. Instead, federal authorities had already approved a project to install security fencing in the area and cleared the area for that purpose.
While declining to weigh in on whether the manner by which the protesters were removed was justified, Friedrich threw out the argument that Trump “conspired” with then-Attorney General Bill Barr and others to “target black people and their supporters.”
She concluded that attorneys for BLM provided no evidence to support the claim and rejected causes of action brought on those and other grounds.
“Gives the federal government a green light”
“When it comes to presidential security specifically, the presence of a large crowd of protesters, even a peaceful one, near the president implicates presidential security questions,” the judge wrote.
Friedrich also shot down requests for injunctive relief, finding that such demands were “too speculative” given the specificity of circumstances that played out last summer.
“Such harm would require that plaintiffs again demonstrate in Lafayette Square; that agencies headed by the official-capacity defendants again respond to the demonstration; that federal officers again use that law enforcement response as cover to deliberately target non-violent peaceful demonstrators; and that one or more of the plaintiffs again be targeted,” she added. “This hypothetical chain of events is simply too speculative to confer standing for injunctive relief.”
In its statement on the ruling, the American Civil Liberties Union complained that it “gives the federal government a green light to use violence” in the ostensible pursuit of national security.
Friedrich did concede that it is plausible that D.C. and Virginia police officers violated the First Amendment rights of some protester, signaling that they might have a case to challenge ongoing restricted access to Lafayette Square.