Campaign Protestors’ Complaint Against Trump and Supporters Goes Forward

Campaign Protestors’ Complaint Against Trump and Supporters Goes Forward

In an action relating to a campaign rally during the 2016 presidential election, protestors alleged that then-candidate Donald Trump directed his supporters to "get 'em out of here" and that, as a result, the supporters physically attacked them and forced them to leave.

The suit was brought by three plaintiffs, Kashiya Nwanguma, Molly Shah, and Henry Brousseau--all who attended a presidential campaign rally at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky, with the intention of protesting. The complaint contends that two named Trump supporters, Matthew Heimbach and Alvin Bamberger, physically attacked them. The complaint also asserts claims against Donald J. Trump and his campaign, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. (the Trump Defendants), for incitement to riot, vicarious liability, and negligence.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Louisville partially denied the Trump Defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the protestors alleged a plausible claim of incitement to riot against the candidate and that the "get 'em out of here" statement was not protected by the First Amendment. The court held that, accepting as true the complaint's allegations, including that violence actually occurred, it was plausible that the imperative statement advocated the use of force and was both intended and likely to result in violence.

The district court found that the complaint sufficiently supported an inference that the statement "get 'em out of here" was directed at the audience, not security personnel, by alleging that there were multiple other occasions when the candidate endorsed or encouraged violence against protestors.  Plaintiffs also presented evidence that Bamberger wrote a letter to an organization acknowledging that he pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit. Heimbach acknowledged in a blog post that he had helped the crowd drive out one of the women who were protesting. Videos recorded at the rally captured Heimbach and Bamberger's actions.

The district court also found that the negligence claim against Trump was sufficient. As to duty, the relevant allegations included that Trump knew or should have known that the audience included members of a recognized hate group and that ordering the removal of an African-American woman was, thus, particularly reckless. As to proximate cause, the complaint alleged that after the statement was made, supporters rushed in and began physically assaulting protestors. The court noted that it was not necessary for the complaint to detail the type or costs of security present or needed because the allegation was not that security was insufficient, but rather that relying on audience members to remove protestors was negligent.

The vicarious liability claim against the Trump Defendants was dismissed, however, because it did not allege that the candidate or campaign had the right to control the supporter's actions.

To access the case opinion, Lexis subscribers can go to: Nwanguma v. Trump, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49013 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 31, 2017)

Lexis Advance subscribers can find the opinion at:  Nwanguma v. Trump, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49013 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 31, 2017)

Author:  Carol Glaser, Lexis-Nexis Case Law Operations

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