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Black Lives Matter D.C. v. Trump

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  1. Newsgathering

Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Date Filed: Dec. 21, 2020

Update: On June 21, 2021, U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich dismissed most claims brought in several lawsuits stemming from the violent clearing of Lafayette Square, including Black Lives Matter D.C. v. Trump. The judge held, among other things, that Major Mark Adamchik and other federal defendants could not be sued in their personal capacities for damages when they are protecting national security.

Background: In June 2020, Black Lives Matter D.C. and a group of protesters filed a class action lawsuit against President Donald Trump and other federal officials in response to the government’s violent crackdown on a June 1 protest outside the White House. The lawsuit claims, among other things, that the federal officials violated the protesters’ First and Fourth Amendment rights, and seeks monetary damages from the defendants pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which held that victims whose civil rights are violated by federal officials can be compensated for their losses.

In a court filing, Major Mark Adamchik, a U.S. Park Police officer named in the lawsuit, argues that First Amendment claims are broadly exempt from Bivens claims in the name of “presidential security” and perhaps even beyond.

Our Position: The district court should reject the defendant’s argument that Bivens remedies are broadly precluded under the First Amendment.

  • Federal officers have arrested and used force against journalists engaged in lawful newsgathering on numerous occasions.
  • Bivens remedies for violations of First Amendment newsgathering rights are an indispensable deterrent against such violations.
  • Existing precedent does not broadly preclude the availability of Bivens remedies for First Amendment violations.

Quote: “Damages claims against individual federal officers under Bivens are a particularly potent deterrent against violations of First Amendment newsgathering protections, such as the right to be free from retaliation for lawful reporting and the right to report on government activity in public.”

Related: In June, the Reporters Committee expressed grave concern with U.S. Park Police officers’ attack on an Australian news crew during the June 1 protest outside the White House.

Attorneys from the Reporters Committee condemned press freedom violations committed by law enforcement at nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism during an October hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In November, the Reporters Committee and a coalition of 60 news media organizations urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to affirm a district court’s preliminary injunction barring federal agents from targeting journalists for assault and arrest during protests.

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