Civil rights groups including the ACLU and Black Lives Matter are taking the Trump administration to court over the forcible clearance of protesters ahead of the president's church photo-op across from the White House Monday. In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, the groups say the use of methods including horses, pepper spray, and rubber bullets to disperse what had been a peaceful protest violated the protesters' rights of free speech and assembly, the Washington Post reports. The widely criticized clearance of the Lafayette Park area happened 30 minutes before Washington, DC's 7pm curfew went into effect. The lawsuit also names Attorney General William Barr, who reportedly ordered the clearance.
"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 Michaelmas, ACLU's DC legal director, per the Guardian. "And when the nation’s top law enforcement officer becomes complicit in the tactics of an autocrat, it chills protected speech for all of us." The lawsuit seeks damages for those injured in the "unprovoked charge into a crowd of demonstrators" and an order banning Barr and other officials from "repeating the unlawful activities," NPR reports. The ACLU says it plans to file many similar lawsuits across the US in response to police violence against protesters. (Read more President Trump stories.)