Democratic MK Pramila Jayapal called on Attorney General William Barr to respond to the administration’s reasons for deploying federal agents to target Black Lives Matter protests, but did not respond to threats from the right during protests over the State-level quarantine measures during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a heated exchange at the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, she accused the attorney general of an uneven and politically motivated response by Donald Trump, who called on his supporters to “free” states from Democratic governors at the height of the public health crisis. .
“When white men with swastikas storm a government building with guns, it is not necessary for the president to ‘activate’ you, because they are fulfilling the president’s personal agenda,” he said. she declared. “But when black people and people of color protest police brutality, systemic racism and the president’s lack of response to these critical issues, then you are forcibly dismissing them along with armed federal agents. [and] pepper bombs because they are considered terrorists by the president.
Download the new Independent Premium app
Share the full story, not just the headlines
Ms. Jayapal’s district encompasses Seattle, where federal agents have been deployed alongside local law enforcement to combat protests that, like similar protests in Portland, the administration has characterized as violent riots requiring federal force. The attorney general defended their deployment to protect federal property.
The right-wing “Operation Gridlock” protests against Michigan targeting Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s shelter-in-place measure have drawn militiamen and armed protesters, although inquiries have revealed that the composition of the protesters was motivated to both by real anger among conservatives and “astroturf” campaigns.
The president urged his supporters to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” to undermine preventive stay-at-home warrants as his administration faced close scrutiny of the Covid-19 response.
Attorney General Barr said he was “unaware” of calls for Governor Whitmer to be “lynched, shot and beheaded”.
“There are a lot of protests in the United States,” he said.
The attorney general said the lockdown protests fell outside his jurisdiction because they did not encroach on federal property, although protests in Michigan took place near the Federal Chamberlain Building.
“With some demonstrations, you are very aware of this,” Ms. Jayapal replied. “But in Michigan, when the protesters were carrying Confederate arms and flags and swastikas called on the governor to be beheaded, hot and lynched, somehow you’re unaware of That … You didn’t send federal agents to do the president in favor of what you did to the president’s protesters.
Attorney General Barr endured hours of punitive criticism from Democrats on the committee because he refused to acknowledge that most of the thousands of people protesting in Portland are not the violent disruptors that the administration and the Republican allies have portrayed this as being, and insisted that the federal courthouse which is the scene of nightly protests would be engulfed in flames without federal support.
California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren said that “most [the protesters] are nonviolent ”and that the presence of federal troops precipitated more violence.
“The reaction was actually in reverse proportion,” Ms. Lofgren said. “People show up because the troops are there.”
A “push” of federal support across a wide range of law enforcement agencies has sent agents to several US cities where protests have persisted for more than two months after the police assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which galvanized an international protest movement to condemn police brutality. and call for significant reforms.
Federal officers have been charged with indiscriminate arrests on the streets of Portland and firing tear gas and pepper spray and other “less lethal” projectiles at close range.
In his opening statement, committee chairman Jerry Nadler said the Attorney General’s Department of Justice had “endangered Americans and violated their constitutional rights by flooding federal law enforcement into city streets. Americans, against the will of the state and the local leaders of these cities, to suppress dissent forcefully and unconstitutionally ”.