The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called Tuesday for an independent special prosecutor to investigate the aggressive clearing of protesters in front of the White House on June 1, an incident that immediately preceded President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it’s trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can’t withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE‘s photo-op at a nearby church.
The ACLU sent a letter to Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWe haven’t seen how low it can go Trump lashes out at Toomey, Romney after Roger Stone clemency criticism GOP senator says Trump commuting Stone was a ‘mistake’ MORE calling him and “all other officials involved” in the removal of protesters from Lafayette Square to recuse themselves from a probe into the incident and appoint a special counsel to prosecute “any federal criminal violations of protesters’ constitutional rights.”
Law enforcement officials utilized tear gas, flash bang grenades and rubber bullets to clear the square of protesters, who were demonstrating against police brutality exactly one week after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
Authorities have said some of the protesters in front of the White House were throwing bottles and other objects at officers, but reporters on the scene said they did not see escalation from protesters.
Minutes later, Trump walked through the area to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been attacked the night before, to pose for photos with a Bible.
Two federal law enforcement officials told The Washington Post that the official order to clear the square came from Barr, but the attorney general has denied this, saying law enforcement was already working to remove the demonstrators when he arrived.
“Given the seriousness of these events, a special counsel is necessary to meet the need for the American people to trust that their civil liberties will continue to be protected by the rule of law, through a full, complete, and impartial investigation of these events and, if warranted, prosecution of any criminal acts committed by Executive Branch officials,” the ACLU’s letter to Barr reads.
The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
Kate Ruane, ACLU senior legislative counsel, said in a statement that 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.”
“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,” she said.
The ACLU of the District of Columbia, along with the Washington, D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter, filed a lawsuit days after the incident, accusing Trump administration officials of a conspiracy to violate their free speech and other constitutional rights during peaceful protests. The suit alleges that protesters were not warned before the officers carried out efforts to remove them, though Barr has said they were.