Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray appeared together at a news conference Thursday to provide an update on the federal response so far to the protests and pockets of violence that have erupted around the country since the death of George Floyd.
Barr, who is under fire for his order Monday to push back a peaceful protest in front of the White House to make way for President Trump‘s photo op at St. John’s Church, used his remarks to express solidarity with peaceful protesters while stressing the department is actively investigating those he said have incited violence around the country.
“While many have peacefully expressed their anger and grief, others have hijacked protests 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,” Barr said.
Despite the arrests Wednesday of three men connected to the far-right ‘Boogaloo’ movement who were allegedly plotting to incite violence at a Las Vegas rally, both Barr and Wray only name-checked the radical antifa movement and “actors of a variety of different political persuasions” in their remarks as responsible for the majority of the violence so far.
“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,” Barr said. “We are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.”
Barr said there has so far been 51 federal arrests in connection with violent looting and rioting.
As a part of his remarks, Barr also weighed in on the nature of the concerns expressed by protesters about the inequities of the criminal justice system, and said he would be holding meetings with DOJ’s law enforcement commission and have conversations with community leaders to “find constructive solutions.”
“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,” Barr said. “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.”
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