Law enforcement responds during a protest near Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church on June 1, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

Law enforcement responds during a protest near Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump’s trip to St. John’s Church on June 1, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer, Getty Images/TNS)

The Biden administration agreed to change U.S. Park Police and Secret Service policies to settle four lawsuits over the violent removal of Black Lives Matter protesters from a park near the White House when former President Donald Trump was in office.

The Department of Justice settlement bars the agencies from revoking protest permits absent “clear and present danger to the public safety” or rampant lawbreaking that could lead to widespread injuries or property damage, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups said in a statement Wednesday.

“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 violence against Black communities,” April Goggans, lead organizer of Black Lives Matter for the District of Columbia, said in the ACLU statement. “Today marks a win for the ongoing resistance against all attempts to subvert dissent.”

The accord resolves claims filed after hundreds of peaceful protesters were pushed out of Lafayette Square by police on June 1, 2020. The crowd was disbursed shortly before Trump crossed the park to pose in front of a historic church holding a Bible. The removal of people drew widespread condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans, including Trump’s former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said the incident made a “mockery of our Constitution.”

As part of the deal, Park Police will be barred from displaying gas masks and shields at protests unless approved by a high-ranking officer, and police will be required to enable the safe withdrawal of demonstrators if a protest is being dispersed, to provide audible warnings ahead of time, and wear clearly visible identification.

The settlement “reduces the opportunity for guilt-by-association policing by modifying Secret Service policy to make clear that uses of force and dispersals are not normally justified by the unlawful conduct of some individuals in a crowd,” the ACLU said.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in June 2021 dismissed the protesters’ claims against Trump, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Attorney General Bill Barr due to a lack of evidence that they coordinated the incident.

The settlement does not resolve the plaintiffs’ claims against other individuals, including police commanders and officers, the ACLU said.

“Those responsible for giving the order and carrying out this injustice still need to be held accountable,” Yvonne Slosarski, a spokeswoman for the ACLU in Washington, D.C., said in an email. “We will continue fighting for damages for the clients and all the protesters involved in this horrific assault on unprovoked protesters.”

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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