Federal Court Rules That Trump May Have Incited Violence At Kentucky Rally

David_J._Haledonald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedIn Kentucky, United States District Court Judge David J. Hale has ruled that President Donald Trump’s statements at a campaign rally could be viewed as incitement to violence.  At a March 2016 rally, Trump told supporters to :get ’em out of here” in reference to protesters. Supporters proceeded to assault protesters Henry Brousseau, Kashiya Nwanguma, and Molly Shah who filed this action.  Hale rejected the claims that the lawsuit violates President Trump’s free speech protections.  They are suing for incitement to riot, vicarious liability, and negligence.

Defense counsel argued that Trump was exercising his free speech in calling for the removal of the protesters.  However, Judge Hale that the violence occurred immediately after Trump’s worlds and that “it is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ‘em out of here’ advocated the use of force.” The court described Trump’s words as “an order, an instruction, a command.” Accordingly, if Trump is viewed as inciting violence, the words would lose their protections under the First Amendment.

For the record, I have long been a critic of the criminalization of speech, including speech deemed “violent.”   Violent speech is protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that citizens cannot be prosecuted for their exercise of free speech, even in the case of so-called “violent speech.” See Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 447–48 (1969) (per curiam); see also NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886, 928–29 (1982). The only exception to this rule is found in extreme cases where the speech is akin to “one who falsely shouts fire in a crowded theatre.” Brandenburg, 395 U.S. at 456 (Douglas, J., concurring). In such cases, the Court has stressed that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Id. at 447. The government must show not only that the defendant both advocated imminent violence, but also that such advocacy was likely to incite or produce such a response. Hess v. Indiana, 414 U.S. 105, 108–109 (1973).

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified financial damages from Trump and the three supporters who allegedly assaulted them.  The court ruled “In sum, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that their harm was foreseeable and that the Trump Defendants had a duty to prevent it.”

Bamberger is a Korean War veteran who later apologized for wearing his uniform at the rally.

Heimbach sought unsuccessfully to bar discussion of his association with a white nationalist group but the judge allowed the evidence to be used, particularly since he allowed Nwanguma, an African-American, to argue that she was the victim of racial, ethnic and sexist slurs from the crowd at the rally.

99 thoughts on “Federal Court Rules That Trump May Have Incited Violence At Kentucky Rally”

  1. Is “get ’em out of here all he said?” If so, then that remark typically tells a bouncer or security to eject someone.

    If he followed that remark with something along the lines of “kick his butt” then he would be involved in the violence.

    If all he did was command the removal of hecklers then he was not a part of the violence. Any one of us should be allowed to call for disruptive people’s removal.

    So it depends on if he made any statements actually calling for violence. That said I recall that communications professor called for some “muscle” to kick a student out of a public protest on campus. The difference was the student was on school property asking questions of protesters. She did not have the right to eject him and he wasn’t heckling. I felt the call for “muscle” indicated a professor was trying to get someone strong to put his hands on the student. But again it is a fine line and it could be argued that any violence that could have hypothetically ensued was not expressly called for.

  2. Why do people continue to attend Trump rallies to protest? Seriously, you could be hurt by some over-zealous supporters. Go volunteer for a candidate. 2018 mid-terms are beginning. Stay away from Trump rallies.

  3. Somewhere around there exists a video of Trump effectively telling his supporters to beat up the protesters and he’d even pick up their legal defense. I don’t know which rally, because I’ve only seen the video, but I saw it several months ago.

    If that video comes to light during discovery, the plaintiffs may well prevail. In any case, it was irresponsible of Trump, but then his primary characteristic seems to be irresponsibility.

  4. As usual, most of the commenters here are way ahead of themselves. All that has transpired in the case is the denial of a motion to dismiss, which means simply that the complaint contained sufficient allegations to state a cause of action. Without direct evidence that people were actually urged to act violently toward the protesters, however, summary judgment will be granted for the defense. We will have to see what is disclosed in discovery.

  5. I do not see the plaintiff ultimately prevailing in this case in federal court. But if Kentucky does not allow a property owner to use reasonable force to evict a trespasser, that can be favorable to plaintiff.

    1. Thank you, Darren, for being the first poster to point out there is a Property Rights aspect of this story.

      Q1. Did this event occur on private or public property?
      Q2. Was the public invited (or similarly, was this a “place of public accommodation’?)
      Q3. Did Trump (or some other private entity) pay for use of this venue?

      Keeping in mind this judge’s ruling is not the be-all and end-all, it seems to me that if this event was on private property, or a public venue rented by a private entity, ultimately the plaintiffs will not prevail.

    1. You want a Civil War? I’ll sit out that dance, thank you very much!

      ‘Civil War’ is never civil. Does the ‘War Between the States’ or Bosnia/Herzegovina/Sarajevo sound at all familiar? How about the ‘War on Poverty? The ‘War on Drugs’?

      Once begun, a (civil) war seldom remains limited to the original population or feuding parties, or contained to topic or the region from which it sprang. Ultimately, it will suck-in neutral parties that never endorsed it, nor would have conceived of or permitted it. Eventually, those who pined for war will pine for the good-ole days of peace. But, peace will not come until there is a sufficient number of dead or dying, or enough property/resources are destroyed that continued war is not sustainable.

      As long as peaceful revolution can be achieved with the soap box or ballot box instead of with the bullet box, there is hope. Else, be careful what you (or others) wish for; you might just get it.

  6. “Get ’em out of here” is now an incitement to riot?

    Shakespeare must be the biggest rioter of all then:

    FLAVIUS: Get out of here! Go home, you lazy men. What, is today a holiday? Don’t you know that working men aren’t supposed to walk around on a workday without wearing their work clothes? You there, speak up. What’s your occupation?

    LADY MACBETH: “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky!—Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.”

    MACBETH “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    LAUNCELOT GOBBO: “Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of 640
    the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his
    own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of
    your son: give me your blessing: truth will come
    to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son
    may, but at the length truth will out.”

    Damned Brit anarchist.

        1. mespo – you are going to have to explain that comment about Shakespeare being Popish.

            1. It always makes my day when the bard makes it into a thread. Too bad he’s being taught in school less every year. He’s sexist!!!

            2. Loved your references to the Bard. It really is too bad that he’ll be cut from many literature syllabi because he was Caucasian and wouldn’t hold exactly the same proscribed values as today.

              1. Yeah who needs to learn about Western Civilization! We have the new paradigm — diversity and inclusion. Sort of like Babel.

  7. This case should proceed. I believe the plaintiffs will be able to meet the standards of proof.

    Judicial Watch just released an e-mail from Clinton where she complains that David Brooks wasn’t compliant enough in his column and she wanted that lack of compliance to stop. Any person with half a brain understands what she means as did the NYT which set up a meeting between her and Brooks and her and Friedman to “talk”. I will argue that just as we know what Clinton meant in this case, we know what Trump meant at the rally.

    The Trump plaintiffs have to prove it, but they should not be prevented from making their case.

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