On Friday, President Donald Trump’s free speech defense was rejected by a federal judge. Trump, his campaign and three of his supporters are named in a lawsuit accusing him of inciting violence against protesters at a campaign rally. Per the Associated Press, Judge David J. Hale ruled that the suit against can proceed. Hale stated that the facts support allegations that the protesters’ injuries were a “direct and proximate result” of Trump’s actions, and that the Supreme Court has ruled out constitutional protections for speech that incites violence.
Twitter is already ablaze:
Trump: It’s free speech, not inciting violence.
Judge to Trump: It was an order, an instruction, a command.
Youtube: Ya-huh pic.twitter.com/gCzTCdPaN9
— Brenna Simon (@BrennaSimonSays) April 2, 2017
"Judge to Trump" Go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass #MaraLago, do not play golf.
— Mike Trail (@MikeTrail3) April 2, 2017
"Judge to Trump" pic.twitter.com/EKE7H0hf8P
— nick (@nickos9000) April 2, 2017
Judge to Trump: pic.twitter.com/Vh9frXLjPu
— RiskyLiberal (@RiskyLiberal) April 2, 2017
Plaintiffs Kashiya Nwanguma, Molly Shah and Henry Brousseau allege that they were physically attacked by several members of the audience, including Matthew Heimbach, Alvin Bamberger (wearing his Korean War Veterans Association Uniform) and an unnamed defendant they have yet to be able to identify.
Bamberger later apologized to the Korean War Veterans Association. He wrote that he “physically pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit” after “Trump kept saying ‘get them out, get them out,” according to the lawsuit.
Another alleged perpetrator, Heimbach received no approval for his requests either. He hoped to obtain a dismissal of any discussion surrounding his association with the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist group. Additionally, he wanted the court to dismiss any statements he made about how Trump could advance the group’s interests. His request was denied, as the judge indicated that the information could be important context when determining punitive damages. Here is a tweet from his now-suspended Twitter account:
— Matthew Heimbach (@MatthewHeimbach) March 2, 2016
Next, Judge Hale would not disallow allegations that Nwanguma was the victim of racial, ethnic and sexist slurs from the crowd at the rally. This context may support the plaintiffs’ claims of negligence and incitement by Trump and his campaign, the judge said.
“I was called a n—– and a c–t and got kicked out,” Nwanguma said, per the New York Daily News. “They were pushing and shoving at me, cursing at me, yelling at me, called me every name in the book. They were disgusting and dangerous.”
“While the words themselves are repulsive, they are relevant to show the atmosphere in which the alleged events occurred,” Hale wrote.
Lawyers for Trump and his campaign also argued that they cannot be held liable because they had no duty to the plaintiffs, who assumed the risk of injury when they decided to protest at the rally. The judge countered that under the law, every person has a duty to every other person to use care to prevent foreseeable injury.
“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,” the judge ruled, referring the case to a federal magistrate, Judge H. Brent Brennenstuhl, to handle preliminary litigation, discovery and settlement efforts.
The Supreme Court has held that “advocacy of the use of force” is unprotected when it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and is “likely to incite or produce such action” Advocacy of force or criminal activity does not receive First Amendment protections if:
- the advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action, and
- is likely to incite or produce such action.
Here is a video clip of the incident at Trumps Super Tuesday Rally: