Arab Times

Go after ‘de­mon­stra­tors’ who cause vi­o­lence: Barr

- Crime · U.S. News · Society · White-collar Crime · Discrimination · Politics · Courts · Human Rights · Law · Washington · William P. Barr · Donald Trump · Perm · Erie · Pennsylvania · Erie · Democratic Party (United States) · United States of America · Oregon · Portland · Rochester · Rochester · New York · Minneapolis · Louisville · Kenosha, WI · Wisconsin · Kenosha · United States Department of Justice · New York City · Muriel Bowser

WASH­ING­TON, Sept 17 (AP): In a pri­vate call with fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors across the coun­try, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr’s mes­sage was clear: Ag­gres­sively go after de­mon­stra­tors who cause vi­o­lence.

Barr pushed his US at­tor­neys to bring fed­eral charges when­ever they could, keep­ing a grip on cases even if a de­fen­dant could be tried in­stead in state court, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials with knowl­edge of last week’s call who spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity. Fed­eral con­vic­tions of­ten result in longer prison sen­tences.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s crack­down has al­ready led to more than 300 ar­rests on fed­eral crimes in the protests that erupted fol­low­ing the death of Ge­orge Floyd. An AP anal­y­sis of the data shows that while many are ac­cused of vi­o­lent crimes like ar­son for hurl­ing Molo­tov cock­tails and burn­ing po­lice cars and as­sault for in­jur­ing law en­force­ment, oth­ers are not – prompt­ing crit­i­cism that at least some ar­rests are a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated ef­fort to stymie demon­stra­tions.

“The speed at which this whole thing was moved from state court to fed­eral court is stun­ning and un­be­liev­able,” said Charles Sun­wabe, who’s rep­re­sent­ing an Erie, Penn­syl­va­nia, man ac­cused of light­ing a fire at a cof­fee shop after a May 30 protest. “It’s an at­tempt to in­tim­i­date these de­mon­stra­tors and to si­lence them,” he said.

Some cases are viewed as trumped up and should not be in fed­eral court, lawyers say, like a teen ac­cused of civil dis­or­der for claim­ing on­line “we are not each other’s en­emy, only en­emy is 12,” a ref­er­ence to law en­force­ment.

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

Pock­ets of vi­o­lence have in­deed popped up in cities across the US, in­clud­ing Port­land, Ore­gon, where protests de­volved into clashes with law en­force­ment for weeks on end. Nights of loot­ing and other un­rest have oc­curred in other cities, in­clud­ing Rochester, New York; Min­neapo­lis, Louisville, Wash­ing­ton and Chicago.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials were also called into to Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, after large protests and un­rest fol­low­ing the shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake and the gun­ning down of two protesters and later ar­rest of a 17-year-old in their deaths. No­tably, that teen has not been charged with any fed­eral crimes. Nei­ther was a man ac­cused of shoot­ing and killing a demon­stra­tor in Louisville fol­low­ing the death of Bre­onna Tay­lor.

While Barr has gone after protest-re­lated vi­o­lence tar­geted at law en­force­ment, he has ar­gued there’s sel­dom rea­son to open sweep­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the prac­tices of po­lice de­part­ments. The Jus­tice De­part­ment, how­ever, has opened a num­ber of civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tions into in­di­vid­ual cases. Barr has said he does not be­lieve there is sys­temic racism in po­lice de­part­ments, even though Black peo­ple are dis­pro­por­tion­ately more likely to be killed by po­lice, and pub­lic at­ti­tudes over po­lice re­forms have shifted.

Fed­eral in­volve­ment in lo­cal cases is noth­ing new. Of­fi­cials across the coun­try have turned to the Jus­tice De­part­ment for decades, par­tic­u­larly for vi­o­lent crime and gang cases where offenders could face much stiffer fed­eral penal­ties and there is no pa­role.

Po­lice chiefs in sev­eral cities have pointed to the im­por­tance of their re­la­tion­ships with fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors to bring charges that can result in long prison sen­tences to drive down vi­o­lent crime.

Even be­fore the un­rest ear­lier this year, the Jus­tice De­part­ment was step­ping in to bring charges in states where the gov­ern­ment be­lieves jus­tice isn’t be­ing fully pur­sued by lo­cal pros­e­cu­tors. In Jan­uary, for ex­am­ple, the de­part­ment brought fed­eral hate crime charges against a wo­man ac­cused of slap­ping three Ortho­dox Jewish women in one of sev­eral ap­par­ently anti-Semitic at­tacks re­ported through­out New York dur­ing Hanukkah.

It’s not clear whether protest-re­lated ar­rests will con­tinue apace. Demon­stra­tions have slowed, though not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause of the fed­eral charges. Wild­fires in the West and hur­ri­canes in the South have damp­ened some of the con­flict.

While many lo­cal pros­e­cu­tors have dis­missed dozens of low-level protest ar­rests, some are still com­ing down hard. A Penn­syl­va­nia judge set bail at $1 mil­lion for about a dozen peo­ple in a protest that fol­lowed the death of a knife-wield­ing man by po­lice.

Even some Democrats, in­clud­ing Dis­trict of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, have called for the Jus­tice De­part­ment to pur­sue fed­eral charges against vi­o­lent de­mon­stra­tors, go­ing as far as ac­cus­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of de­clin­ing to pros­e­cute ri­ot­ers.

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