Trump Administration Ramps up Prosecutions of Violent Protesters
This article is authored by Mitchell Nemeth
On September 16th, the New York Times reported that Attorney General Bill Barr instructed federal prosecutors to consider sedition, among other charges, against violent agitators and far-Left extremists. The liberal website, The Nation, obtained an exclusive Department of Homeland Security intelligence report that ties far-Left movement, Antifa, to foreign powers. Since the death of George Floyd in late May 2020, organized protests and riots have occurred throughout the United States.
According to The Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors have charged roughly 200 people with crimes associated with the mass protests. The federal government’s emphasis on law and order comes as some local prosecutors loosen their enforcement of crimes, such as disorderly conduct or criminal trespass.
In certain regions like the Pacific Northwest, protests have turned violent and continue to rage. Notably, the Hatsfield Federal Courthouse in Portland was a “nightly target of vandalism during evening protests and riots, sustaining extensive damage,” according to an Immigration and Custom Enforcement press release. In Portland, police officers “were explicitly told not to respond to the federal courthouse as hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside, some throwing bricks, rocks and other projectiles at officers, and not to assist federal officers who were sent to try to quell the unrest.” The Daily Caller’s Jorge Ventura has been documenting the unrest in Portland.
Seattle has been another center of unrest as the local officials kowtow to violent extremists. AG Barr has aimed his sights on Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who allowed an autonomous law enforcement-free zone to literally take over city blocks. This zone was called the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP). According to The Post Millennial, Seattle’s Police Chief Carmen Best noted that “rapes, robberies and all sorts of violent acts” occurred in CHOP but police were unable to respond to them. Additionally, residents of Seattle in the CHOP-occupied zone reported threats of extortion.
Other cities throughout the United States, including Minneapolis, Kenosha, and Atlanta were subject to violent protests. These cities endured violence that hadn’t been seen in decades. For example, in Kenosha, at least 56 businesses were “damaged or destroyed by looting and fire” with damage estimated at around $50 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The George Floyd protests began in Minneapolis. During the onset of the riots, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey took responsibility for police officers evacuating the 3rd Precinct, defending the “city’s lack of engagement with looters” by claiming “there is a lot of pain and anger right now in our city.” Over time it became obvious that local officials were overwhelmed so agitators, anarchists, and far-Left extremists took advantage of the situation. Throughout the city, businesses were looted or vandalized and in some cases burned to the ground. Some property owners say they can “no longer count on the city to protect their property” as police “failed to prevent widespread looting and damage to more than 1,500 businesses in the Twin Cities.”
AG Barr is right to note that local officials, in many cases, allowed unlawful behavior and violence to continue so as to not disturb the so-called “mostly peaceful” social justice movement. The plight of minority-owned businesses that were impacted, bankrupted, or burned to the ground is often missing from the conversation about social justice. While legally targeting those who committed crimes against business owners and those who were apathetic may be in the public interest, it may be time for the Trump Administration and the Attorney General to create an avenue for affected individuals to seek damages from the local governments and officials complicit in the chaos. Only when public officials are subject to severe consequences will they come to understand the devastation victims of violence have endured.