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Barr: We Have Evidence Antifa, Similar Extremist Groups Are Hijacking Protests To Engage In Lawlessness

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Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher Wray, U.S. Marshals Director Donald W. Washington, BOP Director Michael Carvajal, ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo, and DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea spoke on the George Floyd protests and civil unrest at a virtual press conference on Thursday.

ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR: This afternoon, our United States attorney in Minnesota and the FBI special agent in charge of our Minneapolis field office, the FBI’s field office, will attend a memorial service for Mr. Floyd. Today is a day of mourning and the day is coming soon, I am confident, when justice will be served. George Floyd’s death was not the first of its kind. And it exposes concerns that reach far beyond this particular case, while the vast majority of police officers do their job bravely and righteously, it is undeniable that many African Americans lacked confidence in our American criminal justice system. This must change. Our Constitution mandates equal protection of the laws and nothing less is acceptable. As the nation’s leading federal law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice will do its part. I believe that police chiefs and law enforcement officials and leaders around the country are committed to ensuring that racism plays no part in law enforcement and that everyone receives equal protection of the laws. In October 2019, the president established the first Commission on Law Enforcement since the 1960s. And I am meeting with them later this month. And I have been talking to law enforcement leaders around the country and in the weeks and months ahead, we will be working with community leaders to find constructive solutions so that Mr. Floyd’s deaf will not have been in vain. We will work hard to bring good out of bad. Unfortunately, the aftermath of George Floyd’s death has produced a second challenge to the rule of law, while many have peacefully expressed their anger and grief. Others have hijacked protest to engage in lawlessness. Violent rioting, arson, looting of businesses and public property. Assaults on law enforcement officers and innocent people. And even the murder of a federal agent. Such senseless acts of anarchy are not exercises of First Amendment rights. They are crimes designed to terrify fellow citizens and intimidate communities. As I told the governors on Monday, we understand the distinction between three different sets of actors here. The large preponderance of those who are protesting are peaceful demonstrators who are exercising their First Amendment rights. At some demonstrations, however, there are groups that exploit the opportunity to engage in such crimes as looting. And finally, at some demonstrations, there are extremist agitators who are hijacking the protests to pursue their own separate and violent agenda. We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity. And we are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence. The Department of Justice is working to restore order in the District of Columbia and around the nation. Here in Washington, we are working with the local police, the citizen soldiers of the national guard and other federal agencies to provide safety and justice. We have deployed all the major law enforcement components of the department on this mission. Including the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the Bureau of Prisons and the US Marshall Service. Their leaders are with me today and we’ll be talking shortly. I thank all of these leaders and their components for working bravely and professionally to protect the district. I’m pleased to say that, especially over the last two nights, the demonstrations while large have been peaceful. The Justice Department is also working closely with our state and local partners to address violent riots around the country. Our federal law enforcement efforts are focused on the violent instigators. Through the FBI, US attorney’s offices, component field offices, and state and local enforcement. We are receiving real time intelligence and we have deployed resources to quell outbreaks of violence in several places. I urge governors and mayors and other state and local leaders to work closely with the national guard and with us. The federal government has thus far made 51 arrests for federal crimes in connection with violent rioting. We will continue to investigate, to make arrests and to prosecute where warranted.

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