After military, federal and local police joined forces to push thousands of peaceful protesters away from the White House Monday evening, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in response to the incident.
The ACLU announced the decision to file the lawsuit on Thursday, claiming that the protesters' constitutional rights were violated and the government engaged in an “unlawful conspiracy to violate those rights.”
The ACLU joined Black Lives Matter D.C. in filing the suit.
“What happened to our members Monday evening, here in the nation’s capital, was an affront to all our rights,” said April Goggans, core organizer of Black Lives Matter D.C., the lead plaintiff in the case. “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.”
The officers deployed dispersants to push the crowd away.
Moments after the confrontation, President Donald Trump exited the White House complex to walk to nearby St. John’s Church, where Trump held up a bible and took a few photos before returning to the White House.
Although the protests were peaceful at the time troops and officers fired dispersants at protesters, the White House claimed that protesters were tossing objects at law enforcement. The White House added that a decision was made to block off the church because of rioters' actions from the night before.
“The officers had no other choice than, in that moment, to act and make sure that they were safe and that the perimeter was pushed back, because as we all know, a church was burning in that very area the night before,” White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said.
The forceful removal of protesters drew widespread scorn from Democrats, and some criticism from Trump allies, including former Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The incident also prompted an investigation in Australia as two Australian journalists were apparently assaulted by law enforcement as protesters were getting pushed back.