WASHINGTON (AFP) - US civil rights groups on Thursday (June 5) filed a case suing President Donald Trump after security forces fired pepper balls and smoke bombs to clear peaceful demonstrators outside the White House.
Law enforcement officers forced protestors back before Mr Trump walked to a nearby church for a photo op on Monday that divided the United States amid nationwide protests over police brutality.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups accused the president and top officials of violating the constitutional rights of Black Lives Matters campaigners and individual protestors.
"Police conducted a coordinated and unprovoked charge into the crowd of demonstrators and deployed several rounds of chemical irritants, rubber bullets, and sound cannons," the ACLU said.
St John's Episcopal church is across the street from Lafayette Park, which faces the White House and has been the focus of protests in Washington.
The church was defaced with graffiti and damaged in a fire during demonstrations on Sunday night.
Mr Trump posed with a Bible outside the building after vowing to dispatch thousands of heavily armed soldiers to stop rioting.
Protesters have taken to the streets across the US in recent days to voice anger over the killing of African American George Floyd by Minnesota police.
The president's "frankly criminal attack on protesters because he disagreed with their views shakes the foundation of our nation's constitutional order," said Mr Scott Michelman, ACLU legal director.
Attorney-General Bill Barr on Thursday defended security forces and said clearing the protestors was not linked to Mr Trump walking to the church.