Chicago Sun-Times

JUS­TICE DEPT.: SEDI­TION CHARGE MAY AP­PLY TO PROTEST VI­O­LENCE

- BY MICHAEL BAL­SAMO, ALANNA DURKIN RICHER AND COLLEEN LONG Crime · U.S. News · US Politics · Society · Discrimination · Politics · Justice · Courts · Protests · Human Rights · Law · Social Issues · Washington · United States of America · United States Department of Justice · William P. Barr · Oregon · Donald Trump · Democratic Party (United States) · Jim Clyburn · South Carolina · Congress of the United States · Portland · Hillsdale College · Hillsdale

WASH­ING­TON — In a memo to U.S. at­tor­neys Thurs­day ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press, the Jus­tice De­part­ment em­pha­sized that fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors should ag­gres­sively go af­ter demon­stra­tors who cause vi­o­lence — and even sedi­tion charges could po­ten­tially ap­ply.

The sedi­tion statute doesn’t re­quire proof of a plot to over­throw the gov­ern­ment, the memo read. It in­stead could be used when a de­fen­dant tries to op­pose the gov­ern­ment’s author­ity by force.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr has been push­ing his U.S. at­tor­neys to bring fed­eral charges in protest-re­lated vi­o­lence when­ever they can, keep­ing a grip on cases even if a de­fen­dant could be tried in­stead in state court. Fed­eral con­vic­tions of­ten re­sult in longer prison sen­tences; sedi­tion alone could lead to up to 20 years be­hind bars.

The memo cited as a hy­po­thet­i­cal ex­am­ple “a group has con­spired to take a fed­eral court­house or other fed­eral prop­erty by force,” but the real thing took place in Port­land, Ore­gon, dur­ing clashes that erupted night af­ter night be­tween law en­force­ment and demon­stra­tors.

Jus­tice of­fi­cials also ex­plored whether it could pur­sue either crim­i­nal or civil rights charges against city of­fi­cials there, spokes­woman Kerri Ku­pec said. She would not say whether charges were still be­ing con­sid­ered.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has seized on the demon­stra­tions and an ag­gres­sive fed­eral re­sponse to show­case what Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump says is his law-and-or­der prow­ess, claim­ing he is coun­ter­ing ris­ing crime in ci­ties run by Democrats. Trump has de­rided pro­test­ers and played up the vi­o­lence around protests, though the ma­jor­ity of them are peace­ful.

Barr un­der fire over com­par­i­son of virus lock-in to slav­ery

Barr drew sharp con­dem­na­tion Thurs­day for com­par­ing lock­down or­ders dur­ing the coronaviru­s pan­demic to slav­ery.

In re­marks Wed­nes­day night at an event hosted by Hills­dale Col­lege, Barr had called the lock­down or­ders the “great­est in­tru­sion on civil lib­er­ties in Amer­i­can history” since slav­ery.

Rep. James Cly­burn, D-S.C., the No. 3 House Demo­cratic leader, told CNN that Barr’s re­marks were “the most ridicu­lous, tone-deaf, God-aw­ful things I’ve ever heard” be­cause they wrongly equated hu­man bondage with a mea­sure aimed at saving lives.

 ?? BOB CHRISTIE/AP ?? U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr speaks Thurs­day in Phoenix, where he an­nounced re­sults of a crack­down on in­ter­na­tional drug traf­fick­ing.
BOB CHRISTIE/AP U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr speaks Thurs­day in Phoenix, where he an­nounced re­sults of a crack­down on in­ter­na­tional drug traf­fick­ing.

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