President Donald Trump’s lawyers argued in a Thursday court filing that protesters “have no right” to “express dissenting views” at his campaign rallies because such protests infringed on his First Amendment rights.
The filing comes in a case brought by three protesters who allege they were roughed up and ejected from a March 2016 Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, by Trump supporters who were incited by the then-candidate’s calls from the stage to “get ’em out of here!”
Lawyers for Trump’s campaign have argued that his calls to remove the protesters were protected by the First Amendment. But the federal district court judge hearing the case issued a ruling late last month questioning that argument, as well as the claim that Trump didn’t intend for his supporters to use force.
The ruling cleared the case to proceed into discovery and towards a trial.
Thursday’s filing by Trump’s campaign lawyers asks the judge to pause the proceedings and allow Trump’s legal team to appeal the ruling to a higher court “before subjecting the President to ‘unique’ and extraordinary burdens of litigation.”
Specifically, Trump’s lawyers want the appeals court to reconsider whether Trump’s calls to remove the protesters were protected speech under the First Amendment and whether it’s reasonable to construe the calls as an incitement to violence.
Trump’s lawyers point out that he explicitly urged his supporters against roughing up protesters, following his calls to “get ‘em out of here,” with the plea “Don’t hurt ‘em.”
Trump’s lawyers also argue that he had every right to call for the removal the protesters since they “obviously interfered with the Trump campaign’s First Amendment right” by “vigorously expressing their disdain for Mr. Trump,” including by chanting and holding up signs depicting Trump’s face on the body of a pig, among other anti-Trump messages.
“Of course, protesters have their own First Amendment right to express dissenting views, but they have no right to do so as part of the campaign rally of the political candidates they oppose,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
As such, Trump’s lawyers concluded “even if Mr. Trump implicitly instructed the audience to remove the protesters by using force if necessary, his speech was still entirely lawful and protected under the First Amendment unless he advocated a greater degree of force than was necessary under the circumstances. Absent that type of unlawful advocacy, Mr. Trump cannot be held liable for incitement. It makes no difference whether the crowd reacted with unlawful violence beyond what Mr. Trump advocated.”
A lawyer for the protesters did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing.