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Government settles civil cases with injured protesters in Lafayette Square


The Justice Department announced an agreement to settle several civil lawsuits brought by protesters involved in a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, DC’s Lafayette Square.

The protest, which took place just days after the death of George Floyd, turned violent as federal police stormed the crowd using tear gas, rubber bullets, flash grenades and other military-grade weapons . Shortly after, former President Donald Trump walked through the area where the protest had taken place and posed for a photo while holding a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The settlement will resolve parts of four separate lawsuits brought by Black Lives Matter DC and 13 individual protesters represented by DC’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several other groups. Scott Michelman, legal director for the ACLU of DC, said in a statement that the response to the protest was “a frontal assault on fundamental American ideals of free speech, freedom of assembly and racial justice.”

“We are pleased that the Biden administration is taking an important step to protect the rights of protesters so that what happened on June 1, 2020 does not happen again,” Michelman said of the settlement.

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced a partial settlement of several civil lawsuits relating to a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest near the White House. Protesters are pictured during the demonstration as a line of United States Park Police watches in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020.
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty

As part of the settlement, the United States Park Police (USPP) and the United States Secret Service will make key changes to how they respond to large protests. The changes, which will be implemented within 30 days, include requirements for USPP officers to wear more clearly visible identification, improved communications between agencies, and limits on the use of non-lethal weapons to dispersal of crowds.

“The federal government is committed to upholding the highest standards for the protection of civil rights and civil liberties in any federal law enforcement response to public protests,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. a statement. “These changes to the agency’s policies for protest responses will reinforce our commitment to protecting and upholding constitutionally protected rights.”

A report released last year by Interior Department Inspector General Mark Greenblatt found that the decision to shell out Lafayette Square protesters was made to put up fencing, rather than to make room for the sitting picture of Trump. However, the report also revealed that former US Attorney General William Barr sped up the clearance process so Trump could cross the area.

“The use of tear gas and rubber bullets will never be enough to silence our voices or diminish our duty to demand an end to police brutality against black communities,” said April Goggans, lead organizer for Black Lives Matter. DC, in a statement obtained by Newsweek.

“Today marks a victory for the ongoing resistance against all attempts to overthrow dissent,” Goggans added. “These attempts to disrupt the ability to organize to end the recurring trauma caused to black communities by police attacks will not go unchallenged.”

The settlement does not resolve outstanding claims for damages against Barr and officers from the USPP, Arlington Police Department and DC Metropolitan Police Department.


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