We previously discussed the hypocrisy of the D.C. government and the media after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser admitted in court that it was the Metropolitan Police Department who used tear gas and stun grenades near the Lafayette Park in 2020. D.C. counsel also insisted that such use was entirely appropriate and sought to dismiss the lawsuit by the Black Lives Matter movement. The media effectively buried the story despite flogging a false narrative against former Attorney General Bill Barr for over a year in non-stop coverage. Barr was even denounced by members of my own faculty. Now, reporters are suing the city for attacking the media. Yet, there is no outcry in the media or from the left against Bowser and her government.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of two photojournalists who claim to have been injured by chemical irritants and stun grenades by Metropolitan Police Department officers during racial justice protests in August 2020.
One of the plaintiffs, freelance photojournalist Oyoma Asinor was arrested and claims that the MPD failed to return his cell phone, camera and goggles for nearly a year.
In the prior litigation, the city waited for a year to reveal the truth that it used tear gas near the park. A year earlier, Bowser condemned the federal government for its clearing of the area and alleged use of tear gas. Much of the media lionized Bowser for her stance at the time. The media also ignored the city’s own history of such abuses. She received national acclaim for painting “Black Lives Matter” on the street next to the park and renaming it “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
One year later, Bowser kept the “BLM plaza” but opposed the BLM protesters. Her administration insisted in court that the protesters were legitimately teargassed by the metropolitan police to enforce her curfew that night.
After the park clearing, the media uniformly denounced then-Attorney General Bill Barr for ordering the park to be cleared so that President Trump could hold his controversial photo op in front of the St. John’s Church. The accounts in virtually every news report were quickly contradicted, but few reporters acknowledged the later facts coming out of federal agencies. As I noted in my testimony to Congress on the protest, the clearing of the park raised serious legal questions, particularly the unjustified use of force that night.
However, the repeated claim that Barr ordered the clearing of the area for the photo op was never supported and quickly contradicted. The plan to clear the park was set long before there was any discussion of the photo op, and it was based on the threat posed to the White House compound. Barr said he was unaware of any planned photo op when he approved the plan and that the delay in implementing it was due to the late arrival of needed personnel and fencing. Nevertheless, legal experts like University of Texas professor and CNN contributor Steve Vladeck continued to claim that Barr ordered federal officers “to forcibly clear protestors in Lafayette Park to achieve a photo op for Trump.” (Vladeck later offered a bizarre rationalization for his peddling the false account).
The false account was debunked by the Inspector General report. The BLM lawsuit against Barr and the federal government was later dismissed — again with relatively little recognition by the reporters and activists who flogged the false story for a year.
The city is being sued for precisely what Barr and others were accused of in literally hundreds of major articles for a year. Academics and reporters declared the tactics to be an assault on democracy and press freedom. Now, there is largely the familiar sound of crickets from a press corp that increasingly acts like a de facto state media.
Here is the lawsuit: ACLU Complaint