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ACLU sues Trump admin over controversial clearing

June 5, 2020

The American Civil Liberties Union has accused White House officials of unlawfully conspiring to violate protesters' rights. Officials described the Lafayette Park clearing an "unprovoked and frankly criminal attack."

Riot police chase a man as they rush protestors to clear Lafayette Park
Image: Reuters

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Trump administration, alleging that White House officials "unlawfully conspired to violate" protesters' rights when US security forces forcefully cleared Lafayette Park earlier this week.

Police fired smoke bombs and pepper balls at peaceful protesters in order to make way for US President Donald Trump's walk to a photo-op at a historic church.

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The lawsuit accuses US Attorney General William Barr and other senior officials of wrongful action, describing the dispersal as a "coordinated and unprovoked charge into the crowd of demonstrators."

"The President's shameless, unconstitutional, unprovoked and frankly criminal attack on protesters because he disagreed with their views shakes the foundation of our nation's constitutional order," said Scott Michelman, legal director at ACLU's Washington DC branch.

'He tries to divide us'

The Trump administration has come under fierce criticism, including from current and former officials, for repressing the protest in order to make way for Trump to walk to a historic church for a photo-op.

Shortly before the protesters were dispersed, Trump threatened to deploy the US military on American soil to quell protests, a remark that was criticized by former generals, including Mike Mullen, the 17th Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Earlier this week, Trump's former defense secretary, James Mattis, denounced the US President for intentionally seeking to divide the country and trying to politicize the military.

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"Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to," Mattis said in a statement published by The Atlantic magazine.

"Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort."

ls/rc (AFP, AP)

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