President Donald Trump argued in a court filing submitted on Thursday that people have “no right” to protest inside his campaign rallies.
The filing was the latest from the President in a lawsuit brought by three protesters who alleged that he incited the crowd to harass and physically intimidate them at a March 2016 campaign rally in Kentucky. The suit alleges that Trump encouraged the crowd to remove the protesters from the rally and offered to pay legal fees for anyone arrested for removing protesters from the event.
In the Thursday filing, lawyers for Trump argued that he had a First Amendment right to exclude the protesters from his campaign rally.
They wrote that “political campaigns have a core First Amendment right to associate for the purpose of expressing a particular message,” which they argued allows for excluding views that are at odds with the campaign’s message. Trump then has a right to shape the rally “by excluding or expelling demonstrators who express contrary viewpoints,” the lawyers asserted.
“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.
They added that the demonstrators “obviously interfered with the Trump campaign’s First Amendment right” when they “began vigorously expressing their disdain for Mr. Trump.”
The federal judge proceeding over the case had previously denied motions from Trump’s lawyers to dismiss the case, agreeing with the protesters that Trump’s comments at the rally incited violence. About two weeks later, Trump’s lawyers submitted another filing arguing that Trump is immune from lawsuits as president.
In the most recent filing submitted on Thursday, Trump’s lawyers asked a federal district court judge to pause the proceedings in the case and allow Trump to appeal to a higher court since that district court judge had dismissed Trump’s initial request to dismiss the case.
In a statement to Politico, the lawyer for the protesters who filed the suit said that they “anticipated that the President would do everything in his power to prevent this case from proceeding to the discovery phase, so this motion was not a surprise.”
They also argued that Trump’s calls for the protesters to be removed were protected by the First Amendment. They noted that Trump never explicitly encouraged the use of force, but that even if he did, it would be permissible to a certain extent.
They wrote that “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,” Trump’s lawyers argued.