President Donald Trump's repeated directions to get protesters "out of here" during a 2016 Kentucky campaign rally did not incite violence and are protected by the First Amendment, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reversed a lower court's decision to dismiss the case and found that Trump's comments at the March 1, 2016, rally were vague enough to be shielded by the First Amendment, BuzzFeed News reports.
The panel also found that Trump's conduct did not fall under Kentucky’s anti-rioting law.
During the rally, at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Trump repeatedly responded to protesters by saying "get 'em out of here."
Demonstrators later sued, saying the comments prompted Trump supporters in the audience to assault them, BuzzFeed reports. A protester was hit in the stomach.
But the appellate court said Trump's comments were constitutionally protected.
"Speech is powerful," Judge David McKeague wrote for the majority. "Yet, as a nation, we have chosen to protect unrefined, disagreeable, and even hurtful speech to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."
But Dan Canon, a lawyer for the protesters, told BuzzFeed that they still planned to "seek further review" of the panel's ruling.
"The court’s opinion today gives him a free pass for that conduct, even though he had publicly been asking for violence to occur at these rallies for months, and even though his co-defendants have said they would not have attacked our clients if Trump had not directed them to do so," Canon said in an email.
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