(CN) – By telling his supporters to “get ’em out of here,” President Donald Trump may have incited violence against protesters at a Louisville campaign rally last year, a federal judge ruled Friday.
On March 1, 2016, Kashiya Nwanguma, Molly Shah, and Henry Brousseau attended then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Louisville, Ky., with the intention of “peacefully protesting Trump,” according to court records.
When he saw the protesters, Trump told the crowd, “Get ’em out of here,” allegedly causing white nationalist members of the audience to physically attack them.
Nwanguma and Shah say they were pushed and shoved all the way to the exit, while Brouseeau, then age 17, claims he was punched in the stomach.
Their attackers allegedly included Matthew Heimbach, considered by Southern Poverty Law Center to be the face of a new generation of white nationalists. At Towson University, Heimbach founded a chapter of Youth for Western Civilization and later started the White Student Union.
As they were being attacked, the protesters claim Trump said, “Don’t hurt ’em. If I say go get ’em, I get in trouble with the press.”
In a video of the incident published by the Washington Post, Trump can be heard saying, “Get ’em out,” and “We’re gonna repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better.”
On Friday, U.S. District Judge David Hale in Louisville refused to dismiss the protesters’ lawsuit seeking to hold now-President Trump liable for inciting the audience to riot.
“Presumably, if he had intended for protesters to be escorted out by security personnel, Trump would have instructed the intervening audience members to stop what they were doing, rather than offering guidance on how to go about it,” Hale said, dismissing the president’s claim there was an obvious alternative explanation for his “go get ’em” comment.
The judge noted that the protesters had tickets to the event, and entrance to the rally was not limited only to those who share Trump’s political views.
“It is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ’em out of here’ advocated the use of force,” Hale said. “Unlike the statements at issue in the cases cited by the Trump defendants, ‘get ’em out of here’ is stated in the imperative; it was an order, an instruction, a command.”
Hale rejected the president’s assertion that the protesters invited harm by protesting at his rally, finding that Trump and his campaign had a duty to prevent protesters from being attacked.