WASHINGTON July 14, 2020 – Attorney General William Barr must step aside and allow for an independent criminal investigation into the use of violent force against protesters outside the White House on June 1, the American Civil Liberties Union demanded today. In a letter sent to Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice, the ACLU is calling on the attorney general and all other officials involved to recuse themselves and for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any federal criminal violations of protesters’ constitutional rights.    

In an unwarned and unprovoked attack on June 1 at approximately 6:25 p.m., federal and other government forces, including D.C. police, used tear gas, flash bang grenades, and rubber bullets against protesters lawfully demonstrating against police brutality and journalists covering the protests. The violent clearing of protesters made way for President Trump’s photo opportunity in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Given the DOJ’s own acknowledgment that Attorney General Barr ordered the clearing of Lafayette Square and the area outside the White House, and video footage of him on the scene moments before the subsequent violent removal of lawful demonstrators, the ACLU is demanding that Barr and all other officials involved recuse themselves from any role in the appointment or supervision of the special counsel.

 “Attorney General Bill Barr and other administration officials appear to have criminally conspired to violently attack lawful demonstrators and all signs indicate they have since been engaged in a concerted cover up effort,” said Kate Ruane, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “History books will certainly remember Bill Barr for the crimes of the Trump administration, but a full, independent investigation now is necessary to hold him and any other officials who may be responsible for this chilling incident accountable today.”

The ACLU of the District of Columbia with a coalition of groups last month filed a class-action lawsuit against President Trump, Attorney General Barr, and other federal officials for firing tear gas and other chemical weapons on protesters lawfully demonstrating against police brutality outside the White House. That lawsuit is proceeding in federal court.

The letter is here: https://www.aclu.org/letter/aclu-letter-ag-barr-violent-clearing-white-house-protesters

The class-action lawsuit is here: https://www.acludc.org/en/cases/black-lives-matter-dc-v-trump-challenging-federal-officers-unprovoked-attack-civil-rights