The protesters were taking part in one of hundreds of demonstrations around the country expressing outrage at the death of a black Minnesota man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer, who has since been charged with murder. Numerous recordings shared widely on social media showed unprovoked violence by police officers against peaceful protesters and journalists at protests across the country.
The protesters at the Lafayette gathering say that was the case Monday, as police rammed protesters with shields and batons, and launched smoke canisters, rubber bullets and flash-bangs into the crowds.
Law enforcement charged at the protesters before D.C.’s 7 p.m. curfew, which had been put in place because of instances of looting and vandalism in parts of the city. The protesters list members of the U.S. Park Police, Arlington County Police, Secret Service, D.C. National Guard and U.S. military police in their lawsuit.
The episode caused an international firestorm of criticism against the Trump administration and law enforcement as an abusive display of power and unprovoked police violence. Religious leaders, former cabinet members and lawmakers of both parties joined in the condemnation.
The crowds were charged just after Trump declared himself a president of “law and order,” vowing to quash violent unrest that had affected some cities since Floyd’s death. He had also made inflammatory declarations against protesters, threatening to overwhelm demonstrators with federal force.