The Trump-appointed judge dismisses almost all lawsuits in which protesters have been driven from Lafayette Square
The lawsuits come from four different groups, including Black Lives Matter, and break down into a number of potential claims, including a lawsuit for damages for violating multiple amendments; a call for an injunction against future acts; an allegation of criminal conspiracy against blacks; and violations of several federal laws. Almost all of them were released.
With regard to the compensation claim, Fredrich quickly dismisses the compensation claim and agrees with lawyers for the DOJ that the claims are outside the “limited jurisdiction” of a district court and that “the individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity”. The first part of it went into a lot of avoiding any "new context" that would have protected constitutional rights. In essence, Friedrich seems to agree that it is beyond the decision-making authority of the regional court, as there has been no case specifically for this situation. So … fired.
Much of what the lawsuits demanded included no punishment for the day's events or payment to the injured, but rather "injunctive relief" that would prevent future incidents of violence against those gathered for the purpose of the First Amendment protest had. The plaintiffs demanded that the government be prevented from "using physical violence without provocation, warning or legal reasons".
Judge Friedrich refused to grant this discharge, saying just because the individuals who filed these lawsuits were ordered by the government to be attacked by the government and, in some cases, injured, they have no position in this case, to prevent future cases where the same thing can happen. Who would have the right to demand that the government be instructed not to attack non-violent protesters without warning? Nobody.
In this particular case, Judge Friedrich has ruled that even if "federal officials used the law enforcement response as a cover" to deliberately attack non-violent peaceful demonstrators, this is not a problem. Because just because they did it once doesn't mean they'll do it again. Or at least it doesn't mean they'll specifically do it again against any of those who filed a lawsuit in this case. And that makes the whole thing "just too speculative" for the petitioners to be entitled to.
In order for plaintiffs to be eligible, they needed evidence not only of what happened that day, but that they had been targeted for future events. Without that evidence … no credit. And no lawsuit means the case will be dismissed. A fraction of that demand remains, however, by allowing plaintiffs to waive the restrictions still in place in Lafayette Square. Friedrich almost points them out of the hand of the conspiracy lawsuit. She writes both that "plaintiffs have failed to adequately represent the first two essential elements of a conspiracy," and that Trump, Barr and others are entitled to qualified immunity. "For these reasons, the conspiracy allegations are dismissed."
Finally, the lawsuits argue that action to clear Lafayette Square is in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. Since the Posse Comitatus Act, however, is a criminal law with the possibility of fines and imprisonment, Judge Friedrich only states: "The PCA does not establish a civil damages action." She spends some time checking whether the Congress intended to do so suing the law, however, states that "there is no evidence here". The Posse Comitatus can therefore be the subject of legal action by a state actor, but not civil action by individuals. "The court sees no reason to deviate from the weight of the authority and will dismiss plaintiffs' claims for damages under the PCA."
Almost only the parts of the lawsuits that do not concern Trump and Barr, but claims against individual officials of the various authorities involved have survived. There Friedrich states that the "plausible plausible claims of a violation of the constitution" in the violation of their First Amendment rights.
In this section, the DOJ continues to argue directly against the Inspector General's finding:
Notably, the defendants argue that the evacuation of the square was justified by a significant government interest – the national interest in the president's safety …
But that part of the lawsuit is not dismissed. Neither is a right to "first change compensation". However, other municipal liability lawsuits were dismissed as Friedrich felt that the evidence was insufficient to show that the authorities involved had not adequately trained their officers on racial issues.
In the end, the only ongoing call against federal targets is continued restrictions on access to Lafayette Square. Only a few claims against individual civil servants remain of the lawsuit, but not against the communities involved. If plaintiffs want to pursue claims for damages, they must turn to a court that has more extensive room to deal with claims that "create a new context".
So nothing that will make Trump or Barr anything but a smile.
The ACLU issued a statement:
"Today's ruling essentially gives the federal government the go-ahead to the use of force, including deadly force, against protesters while federal officials claim to protect national security," said Scott Michelman, Legal Director, ACLU of the District of Columbia. “With today's decision, Lafayette Square is now a constitution free zone when it comes to the actions of federal officials. This decision is not only a staggering rejection of our constitutional values and the rights of First Amendment protesters, but it also effectively puts federal officials above the law. "