U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich was appointed by former President Donald J. Trump. In a case that involved her former boss and the person responsible for getting her on the bench she sits on, she didn’t recuse herself. That made her “ruling” on a case that was about the day that peaceful protesters were cleared from Lafayette Park using pepper balls, smoke bombs, and other inhumane methods inevitable.
In addition to dismissing most of the claims filed by protesters, Judge Friedrich also pretty much blocked them from taking any civil action — granting “immunity” without really explaining why.
Judge Friedrich said Monday the claims in the suit, which alleged that Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr had conspired to violate the rights of protesters last June, were speculative and it was premature for the court to conclude whether the actions of law enforcement officers were justified.
Friedrich dismissed the claims against Barr and other federal officials, including the acting U.S. Park Police chief, Gregory Monahan, finding there “wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove there was any agreement or plan to violate the rights of the protesters.” She also said that the law gives them immunity in any civil litigation.
In a 51-page decision, the judge did allow the claims against the Metropolitan Police Department and the Arlington Police Department, who actually did much of the dirty work of clearing the park— to proceed.
But Trump and his cronies are off the hook — at least for now — thanks to a judge he appointed.
The lawsuit came out of one of the most dramatic moments of the Trump presidency, when federal and local law enforcement officials aggressively forced a group of largely peaceful protesters back from Lafayette Park outside of the White House, firing smoke bombs and pepper balls into the crowd to disperse the group. Officers were seen shoving protesters and journalists as they pushed the crowd back.
After the crowd was forcefully dispersed, Trump, followed by a pack of his most senior aides — including Barr — along with Secret Service agents and reporters, walked over to St. John’s Church, a landmark building next to Lafayette Park where every president has prayed, and held up an upside-down Bible in a “photo-op” attempt.
Before that day, Trump and his allies had been promising unmerciful attacks on protesters that they viewed as “unamerican.” All that bluster then turned into “who, me?” in court — and the judge bought it.
Was it mentioned that this judge was appointed by Trump?
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the group Black Lives Matter D.C. and individual protesters who were represented by the ACLU of DC, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the law firm of Arnold & Porter.
Arthur Ago, the director of the criminal justice project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement that the ruling set an “extremely dangerous precedent” and that former officials like Barr were “getting off scot-free.”
“We will always stand up for the rights of those peacefully demonstrating for racial justice, and this ruling sends the wrong message for police accountability efforts at a time when it is needed the most,” Ago said.
Many are hoping this ruling will be appealed and overturned. Time will tell.
If people thought that the impact of the Trump presidency was over, this possible corrupt ruling by a judge appointed by Trump, reminds us that it is not.