U.S. District Court Judge David Hale in Louisville, Kentucky, has ruled that a lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of inciting violence against protesters at a presidential campaign rally last year can move forward, denying a free speech argument against the suit.
The ruling opens the way for the lawsuit brought by three protesters to proceed through the legal system. The suit is against Trump, his campaign and three of his supporters. Trump’s lawyers had argued a free speech defense against the lawsuit, arguing that Trump did not intend for his supporters to use force.
Kentucky federal Judge David Hale said he found ample facts supporting the allegations that the protesters’ injuries were a ”direct and proximate result” of Trump’s actions. He wrote that “it is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ‘em out of here’ advocated the use of force. … It was an order, an instruction, a command.” The protesters- two women and a teenage boy, were at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
Plaintiffs Henry Brousseau, Kashiya Nwanguma and Molly Shah say they were assaulted by Trump supporters at the March 2016 rally in Louisville as Trump repeatedly said “Get ‘em out.” The trio are suing Trump and his campaign for incitement to riot, negligence, as well as gross negligence and recklessness. They are seeking unspecified damages.
The attackers named in the lawsuit include Matthew Heimbach, a member of a white supremacist group, and Alvin Bamberger, a member of the Korean War Veterans Association in Ohio. A third defendant has not been identified. In a video of the incident that went viral shortly after it happened, Heimbach and Bamberger are seen pushing Nwanguma down an aisle as Trump repeatedly says “Get ‘em out, Get ‘em out of here!”
Hale said the removal of Nwanguma, an African American woman, was “particularly reckless.” The judge did not remove allegations that Nwanguma was the victim of racial, ethnic and sexist slurs from the rally crowd. He wrote, “While the words themselves are repulsive, they are relevant to show the atmosphere in which the alleged events occurred.”
The judge dismissed part of the suit claiming that Trump and his campaign were “vicariously liable” for assault and battery. Hale said that the men accused of attacking the protesters were not employed by the Trump campaign, nor were they under Trump’s direct control.
Alvin Bamberger, said in a letter cited by the judge: “Trump kept saying, ‘get them out, get them out,’ and people in the crowd began pushing and shoving the protesters. I physically pushed a young woman.”