The ACLU and Black Lives Matter say they’ll sue a police chief and officers for forcibly clearing Lafayette Square

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WASHINGTON, DC – The Hill reported that the Black Lives Matter chapter in D.C. added the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and certain officers to their lawsuit over the forcible dispersing of the crowd at Lafayette Square on June 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) along with other civil rights groups filed a motion to add Police Chief Peter Newsham and other officers to the lawsuit. The officers are being accused of joining federal law enforcement agents in forcibly removing Lafayette Square to the clear the area for President Trump’s visit to St. John’s Church.

The original lawsuit was filed last week against President Trump’s administration for using chemical agents and rubber bullets. The Washington Post reported that the lawsuit seeks a court order declaring that Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr and other administrators conspired and violated protesters’ constitutional rights, as well as other unspecified damages.

The civil rights groups also want a court order barring officials from committing such activities they deem “unlawful” again.

Kaitlan Banner, Deputy Legal Director, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs commented to the ACLU:

“The response of the Metropolitan Police Department to demonstrators marching for racial justice and against police brutality is appalling .

In a city in which people march on a nearly daily basis, violence and suppression is reserved for Black demonstrators and their allies. This is one example in a pattern by MPD to target Black Lives Matter and other racial justice demonstrators.”

 

D.C. police restated to the Washington Post on Wednesday:

“[The Metro DC Police Department] was not involved in the unscheduled movement of the President from Lafayette Square to St. John’s church.”

However, they did not say anything about the accusations that its officers deployed chemical agents. D.C. police did state they had officers in surrounding streets where they confronted protesters trying to flee. D.C. police lined along I Street NW between 15th and 17th streets NW, where some arrests were made.

Civil rights groups alleged that D.C. officers used additional tear gas at a Virginia man, Dustin Foley and his 15-year-old daughter, identified as “E.X.F,” who were delivering sandwiches and water to protesters at the square.

The two were blocked in when attempting to leave the area before the President Trump arrived one block west of 17th and H streets NW. Officers then proceeded to fire chemical agents at Foley and E.X.F, which caused her to cough, have trouble breathing.

The Washington Post reported that the groups also alleged that police and military units deployed horses, batons, shields and riot control agents – such as pepper spray, smoke canisters, and rubber or plastic projectiles- toward mostly peaceful protesters with no justification to do so.

ACLU reported that Mr. Foley said:

“George Floyd’s horrific death moved my daughter and me to attend the demonstration that day. Instead of being allowed to exercise our rights, we were attacked by both federal and D.C. law enforcement without reason and without warning. We were there to make a statement against police violence and the police just ended up proving our point.”

The civil rights group claims they have video of Foley telling officers with a hand raised that his child cannot breathe because of the tear gas. Filmmaker Roddy Hafiz video recorded the incident.

A spokesperson, Sean Hickman, for D.C. Police Department told the Hill:

Scott Michelman, Legal Director, ACLU of the District of Columbia said:

“The video footage obtained and the experience of Mr. Foley and his daughter directly contradict Chief Newsham’s assertions that D.C. police officers were not involved in the brutal assault on protesters the evening of June 1.”

The White House, the Defense Department and Park Police all commented that they did not use tear gas, but said they used pepper spray. This is a similar chemical agent causing severe irritation of the eyes, mouth, nose, lungs, and skin.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

While activists complain of their poor treatment by DC police, protesters continue to do damage to the city.

Here’s a previous report on the riots in DC.

Authorities have issued bulletins seeking the identity and announcing the arrest for some of those responsible for committing vandalism of statutes on federal property occurring on or around June 22nd of this year. 

Apparently, a group of people decided it was a good thing to conduct criminal mischief on the statue of President Andrew Jackson.

Four men have been charged with vandalism or destruction of federal property in regards to this complaint. 

The Department of Justice complaint listed those as:

“Lee Michael Cantrell, 47, of Virginia; Connor Matthew Judd, 20, of Washington, D.C.; Ryan Lane, 37, of Maryland; and Graham Lloyd, 37, of Maine.”

The men in this complaint were seen, on video, attempting to pry the statue of President Jackson off of the base with straps. 

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said:

“The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed.  This Office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital:  your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”

Additionally, James A. Dawson, FBI Agent, said:

“The FBI respects the peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights, but we will not allow opportunists to hijack peaceful protests to incite violence and destruction of property. We will continue to work with our partners to enforce federal laws prohibiting damage to government facilities and property.”

Gregory T. Monahan of the United States Park Police said:

“Members of the United States Park Police are working tirelessly to provide quality law enforcement, safeguard lives, protect our national treasures and symbols of democracy, and preserve the natural and cultural resources entrusted to its service.  

“We are committed to ensuring that citizens are able to freely exercise their constitutional rights in a safe and peaceful manner.  The deplorable acts of violence and destruction of property are unacceptable and will continue to be pursued through ongoing collaborative investigations and enforcement efforts.”

President Trump, along with many citizens of the United States, is fed up with the unlawful destruction of American History.  No one, including the President, is saying that what the statues represent is something that we should all be proud of. However, history is something that must be remembered.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, it seems that many feel it’s better to destroy history rather than attempt to understand it. 

Some people who want these monuments torn down neglect the other part of the equation: These statues are left in place as a reminder that all people, regardless of race, creed, or religion, should be free to determine how to live their lives.

Many people believe that these statutes should be destroyed. Many others believe that destroying history, regardless of what there intentions are, will simply doom the rest of society to relive the sins of the past.

As we’ve said, President Trump is absolutely fed up with the vandalism and tearing down of our nation’s monuments.

Recently, the Trump administration activated the National Guard to protect monuments in the nation’s capital amid violent protests across the country.

According to Fox News, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt requested the action earlier this week.

This, as protesters continue to target statues and other historical markers across the country during demonstrations that have been ongoing since George Floyd’s police custody death in Minneapolis at the end of May.

Fox News reported that the Pentagon confirmed there are approximately 400 D.C. Guard members activated and on standby.

National Guard spokesman Major Robert Perino told CNN the “District of Columbia National Guard is responding to a request to support law enforcement officials and has dispatched unarmed personnel, with others on stand-by” and that “activated Guardsmen are expected to provide security for local monuments and critical infrastructure.”

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christian Mitchell said in a statement that the Guard members “will support U.S. Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction.”

He further noted that they are not armed, but will serve as “uniformed deterrence” and support “crowd management capacity.”

Last Friday, a statue of Confederate leader Albert Pike was toppled by protestors near the city’s police headquarters, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to destroy a statue of President Andrew Jackson near the White House, according to New York Post.

NBC Washington reported that Trump said the people who tried to topple Jackson’s statue were “vandals,” “anarchists” and “agitators” and that “they’re bad people. They don’t love our country and they’re not taking down our monuments.”

President Trump warned activists they could face 10 years in prison under the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation Act.

Earlier in the month, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser was not happy about the presence of Guard troops in the nation’s capital.

In a June 4 letter to President Trump, Bowser requested the removal of “all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from Washington, DC,”  and stated they were “inflaming demonstrators and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and for reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing Black Americans.”

Trump retorted to Bowser in a June 5 tweet:

“The incompetent Mayor of Washington, D.C., @MayorBowser, who’s budget is totally out of control and is constantly coming back to us for ‘handouts’, is now fighting with the National Guard, who saved her from great embarrassment….”

 

Attorney General William Barr also responded to Bowser in a letter, saying that the presence of federal law enforcement and National Guard troops were necessary in the city because the unrest had hit unprecedented and dangerous levels in the nation’s capital, according to CNN.

At Trump’s June 20 campaign rally in Tulsa, OK, he criticized Bowser again:

“They ripped down a statue that was 110-years-old. Beautiful piece of art. In front of a police precinct with our radical left mayor watching on television. We’re not happy. That’s going to be very expensive for D.C. ‘We need more money. We always need more money’. And then they don’t do the proper job. So, it’s not gonna be good for Mayor Bowser.”

The mayor later tweeted a childish response:

“I see @AOC and I are living in his head, and apparently there’s a lot of empty room in there… just like tonight’s half empty Tulsa arena.”

 

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