This story snuck by fast, leaving barely a ripple, but coming on the heels of the Department of Justice appealing Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s ruling that Bill Barr’s disingenuous “deliberative” Mueller memo must be released to the public, it is alarming. The Washington Post:
The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C., Black Lives Matter, other civil liberties groups and individual protesters accuse Trump and senior officials of driving the June 1 events. Military, federal and local police forcibly cleared the square using batons, clubs, horses, pepper spray, smoke and fired projectiles 30 minutes before a citywide curfew began. Images of violence drew a national backlash against Trump’s calls for “overwhelming force” to put down those he called “THUGS” and domestic terrorists. The nation’s top military official later apologized for walking with Trump before television cameras that day.
Lawyers for the ACLU said that despite legal precedents, the government’s defense would “authorize brutality with impunity” in the heart of Washington at one of the most symbolic spaces within the seat of the federal government.
DOJ lawyers argued a few days ago that the case must be dismissed. They argued that the ACLU’s lawsuit over the June 2020 violent dispersal of a peaceful crowd so that Trump could walk to a photo op must be thrown out because the President and Attorney General were acting within the scope of their authority, Barr exercising the “paramount” government interest of protecting the president when he ordered federal anti-riot police to use force to drive a peaceful crowd from Lafayette Park.
The Washington Post notes that right before Trump’s walk to the church to menacingly hold up a Bible:
Trump called on governors to “dominate your city and your state” in the hours before the crackdown, adding, “In Washington, we’re going to do something people haven’t seen before.”
Earlier, he tweeted, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” as protests raged in Minneapolis. Trump also threatened that if demonstrators outside the White House breached its gates, they “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs and most ominous weapons I have ever seen.”
Finally, the suit asserted that even as police moved on the square at 6:43 p.m., Trump spoke a few hundred yards away in the Rose Garden, saying, “[If] a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
The ACLU had the better argument, that peaceful protesters have rights that prevent the federal (or state) government from burning, beating, shooting or giving them asthma attacks with chemical irritants:
The lawsuits seek damages and a court order declaring that authorities conspired to violate civil rights statutes and the First and Fourth amendment rights of protesters injured after being burned, beaten, shot or put into respiratory distress.
As Trump told his riled up supporters during his #Stop the Steal rally on January 6:
“When you catch somebody in a fraud you’re allowed to go by very different rules.”
Presumably the same goes for lawful protesters, when they represent something as ugly and divisive as police accountability for the murder of unarmed, unresisting citizens — when they refuse to stand down in the face of concrete threats and ultimatums, you’re allowed to go by very different rules.
The DOJ, because, as it points out, the current president would never use violence against peacefully protesting anti-racists, moves to dismiss the case against Barr and Trump on those grounds, and on the grounds that Barr and Trump were acting completely within the scope of their duties when they used violence against a crowd, after numerous ugly provocations and threats by the president and the Attorney General, culminating in a calculated show of unconstitutional force to violently and “illegally” deprive citizens of their rights.
Compare Trump and Barr’s response to the peaceful protest on June 1 to the federal response to the January 6 riot, during which a violent crowd of excited normal tourists fought police, breached, overran and vandalized the Capitol to prevent the final certification of Trump’s loss to Biden. Because, when you’re with president Trump, you’re allowed to go by very different rules.
Nothing to see here. If you have asthma, don’t go to a peaceful protest that might be broken up by unaccountable government force including pepper spray, smoke bombs, stun grenades, tear gas and the armed charge of horse-mounted anti-riot police — in defense of the president’s unlimited right to provoke and order violence. You have to use common sense!