The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of Black Lives Matter, filed a lawsuit Thursday against President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr.
According to Forbes, the lawsuit claims the White House infringed on the First Amendment right to peaceful assembly of a group of protesters in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square. Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to clear space so Trump could take a photo outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church unimpeded.
The lawsuit adds the protesters were being peaceful when police “attacked” them without warning. The action drew criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. On Thursday, Barr said protesters were asked three times to move. Barr also admitted he personally ordered police officers to extended their perimeter but denied he did so for Trump’s now-infamous “Bible photo.”
“I did not know that he was going to do that until later in the day after our plans were well underway to move the perimeter,” Barr told reporters.
“What happened to our members Monday evening, here in the nation’s capital, was an affront to all our rights,” April Goggans, core organizer of Black Lives Matter D.C. and the lead plaintiff in the case, told Forbes. “The death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers has reignited the rage, pain, and deep sadness our community has suffered for generations. We won’t be silenced by tear gas and rubber bullets. Now is our time to be heard.”
Former high-ranking military officials, including former Defense Secretary James Mattis and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, both condemned the move. Mattis went a step further calling Trump “a threat to the Constitution.”
The protests, which are still happening in more than 50 cities nationwide, are in response to the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Floyd.