Rioters using the death of Minnesota man George Floyd as a pretext for causing destruction across America may face the wrath and scrutiny of the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr said Saturday.
Barr had announced last week that Floyd’s death would be investigated by the Justice Department for possible civil rights violations.
Floyd, 46, died Monday after a Minneapolis police officer kept a knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Although the officer has since been charged in connection with Floyd’s death, the incident triggered mass protests that have since turned into violent anti-police rioting in major cities across America.
Barr said that some are using the riots as a tactic to attack American society.
“Unfortunately, with the rioting that is occurring in many of our cities around the country, the voices of peaceful protest are being hijacked by violent radical elements,” Barr said in a statement posted on the Justice Department’s website.
“Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda. In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchistic and far-left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence,” the statement said.
Barr said the Justice Department is ready to help local areas protect their communities.
“We must have law and order on our streets and in our communities, and it is the responsibility of the local and state leadership, in the first instance, to halt this violence. The Department of Justice (including the FBI, Marshals, ATF, and DEA), and all of our 93 U.S. Attorneys across the country, will support these local efforts and take all action necessary to enforce federal law,” he said in the statement.
Barr added a special warning to those who instigate violence as a means to a political end.
“In that regard, it is a federal crime to cross state lines or to use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting. We will enforce these laws,” he said in the statement.
In his statement, Barr noted that “[t]he greatness of our nation comes from our commitment to the rule of law,” and that the process of enforcing the law is moving forward in the Floyd case,
“The outrage of our national community about what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is real and legitimate. Accountability for his death must be addressed, and is being addressed, through the regular process of our criminal justice system, both at the state and at the federal level,” the statement said.
“That system is working and moving at exceptional speed. Already initial charges have been filed. That process continues to move forward. Justice will be served.”
President Donald Trump on Saturday said that the response to rioting in Minneapolis needed to be stronger.
“They’ve got to get tougher. They’ve got to get tougher. They’ve got to be strong. Honor the memory of George Floyd. Honor his memory. They have to get tougher. And by being tougher, they will be honoring his memory. But they cannot let [riots] happen,” Trump said, according to a White House media pool report.
He appeared to specifically cite the incident in Minneapolis where a police precinct was overrun by rioters.
“When I saw a policeman, run by a mayor who I think is probably a very good person — but he’s a radical-left mayor — when I saw the policeman running out of a police station, for that police station to be abandoned and taken over, I’ve never seen anything so horrible and stupid in my life. I’ve never seen anything so bad. And then I see them trying to justify it,” he said.
Trump said he will intervene if called.
“We have our military ready, willing, and able if they ever want to call our military. But we can have troops to the ground very quickly if they ever want our military,” he said.
Trump on Saturday noted that he had spoken to Floyd’s family.
“The death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis was a grave tragedy. It should never have happened. It has filled Americans all over the country with horror, anger, and grief,” Trump said while in Florida for the launch of the SpaceX mission to the International Space Station.
“Yesterday, I spoke to George’s family and expressed the sorrow of our entire nation for their loss. I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace. And I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack, and menace. Healing, not hatred; justice, not chaos are the mission at hand,” Trump said.
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