First Amendment

Federal judge says Trump's campaign rally command could have incited violence, allows suit

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Donald Trump

President Donald Trump. Evan El-Amin /

A federal judge in Kentucky has refused to dismiss a suit claiming that protesters were attacked at a Donald Trump campaign rally because of the candidate’s command to “get ’em out of here.”

U.S. District Judge David Hale of Louisville ruled in an opinion Friday that Trump’s words could be construed as an incitement to violence that isn’t protected by the First Amendment. As a result, Hale ruled, Trump and his campaign could be sued by protesters who say they were attacked. Publications covering the decision include the Washington Post, the Associated Press, the Huffington Post and the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The incident occurred at a March 2016 campaign rally in Louisville. The three plaintiffs allege assault and battery by the three people who allegedly attacked them; and incitement to riot, negligence, gross negligence and recklessness by Trump and his campaign. Hale said that the pleadings adequately alleged that Trump’s statements were the proximate cause of the tort violations.

Turning to the First Amendment claim, Hale said it is plausible that Trump’s statement advocated a use of force that isn’t protected by the First Amendment. ” ‘Get ’em out of here’ is stated in the imperative; it was an order, an instruction, a command,” Hale wrote. “Based on the allegations of the complaint, which the court must accept as true, Trump’s statement at least ‘implicitly encouraged the use of violence or lawless action.’ ”

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