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U.S. Attorney General’s Office says looting, rioting taking away from message; will be met with prosecution

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WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – Under the constitution, every citizen has a right to peacefully assemble, demonstrated on the streets of Wheeling Sunday. But if it turns to violence, what repercussions will follow suit?

Following the viral video of George Floyd’s death, it has lit a fire in many hearts to take to the streets in protest.​

But if that flame becomes literal, like it has in some cities, the Attorney General’s Office tells me, there will be arrests and federal charges.​

Destruction to businesses, looting, and more will be held accountable. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says some are trying to hijack the message, with some out-of-staters heading into West Virginia for the goal to cause violence.​

But, so far in West Virginia, the protests have stayed peaceful.​

“In Martinsburg there were shots fired yesterday in a protest, but overall in West Virginia we haven’t seen that yet. I understand there are some protests that may occur in Wheeling tomorrow and hopefully they will continue to be peaceful, because we do need to have a dialogue, we do need some healing, but we don’t want to see the message lost through violence.” ​

Randolph Bernard, First Assistant United States Attorney

Identifying perpetrators in masks may prove more difficult, but Bernard says the local police are trained to weed out those with malicious intent. ​

And the U.S. Attorney General’s Office has a message for those groups whose sole purpose is to instigate, travel inter-state, and commit acts of violence: They will be met with the terrorism-taskforce, identified, and prosecuted

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