Barr claims protests were 'hijacked' as authorities point to out-of-state actors

Attorney General William Barr addressed the recent protests.

May 30, 2020, 3:59 PM

Attorney General William Barr said on Saturday that the investigation into the death of George Floyd was moving at “exceptional speed" but took aim at some of the protesters who have been gathering in response to the incident.

“The voices of peaceful protests are being hijacked by violent radical elements,” Barr said in a televised statement at the Department of Justice.

“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 anarchic and left extremist groups, far left extremist groups using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom traveled from outside the state to promote the violence,” Barr said.

The death of Floyd, a black man who was seen pinned down in a video by a white police officer and later died, has caused outrage in the city of Minneapolis and across the United States. What started as mostly peaceful protests at the beginning of the week has turned into chaos.

The attorney general made clear that people crossing state lines to commit crimes would face federal charges.

“In that regard it is a federal crime to cross state lines or to use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting and we will enforce those laws,” Barr said.

Attorney General William Barr listens as President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office before signing an executive order related to regulating social media on May 28, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Doug Mills/Getty Images

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said at a press conference on Saturday that the state estimates up to 80% percent of those causing destruction throughout the area are people who have come in from outside Minnesota. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said everyone arrested in his city last night was from out of state.

“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,” Barr said.

“The Department of Justice, including the FBI, US Marshals and ATF the DEA and our 93 USAO offices around the country are supporting these local efforts and are continuing to support them. We will take all actions necessary to enforce federal law,” he added.

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