Attorney General Bill Barr had flooded Washington, D.C. with a slew of federal law enforcement officers to check on protesters – officers who don’t wear badges or identify themselves.
President Donald Trump has instructed Barr to follow up on the response to protests across the country following the death of George Floyd.
And the attorney general used the directive to build a private army of agents from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, US Marshals, and the Bureau of Prisons to patrol the streets of the national capital.
Barr oversees the efforts of an FBI command center, The Washington Post reported, as critics called for the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters. Agents used pepper spray and other chemicals, along with rubber bullets and mounted police, to clean the streets around the White House on Monday so Trump could walk to St. John’s Church for a photo op.
A Justice Department official told the Post that Barr’s strategy is to “flood the zone” by “putting the maximum amount of law enforcement on the street.” …. The peace is largely due to the large presence of law enforcement officers. ‘
Attorney General Bill Barr had flooded Washington, D.C. with a slew of federal law enforcement officers to check protesters
In Washington, D.C., federal law enforcement officers have been seen without identification of badges
Barr coordinates in his duties with the Pentagon and state officials. Governors of Tennessee and Florida have offered to send National Guard units to Washington D.C. to support the response.
In addition, Homeland Security officers, D.C. Police, U.S. Capitol Police, Federal Protective Service, Secret Service, and District of Columbia National Guard are all involved.
But the visual images on Monday night – demonstrators are being gassed, horseback officials, Trump standing in front of a church with a Bible – have sparked a storm of criticism and questions.
The controversy attracted both military and civilian officers, as the government demonstrated federal power, including military vehicles on the city streets, helicopter rides, armed federal agents on patrol, and checkpoints throughout the capital.
“We know we’re better than the executive abuse we’ve seen in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable for those who would mock our Constitution, ”former Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired four-star general, wrote on Wednesday evening in The Atlantic.
There are also questions as to why Barr was delegated to lead the response and why he brought in prison guards to deal with the protesters.
The Bureau of Prisons has special teams that are “highly trained tactical units capable of responding to prison outages and providing assistance to other law enforcement agencies during emergencies.” The teams also specialize in crowd control scenarios. At the request of the Attorney General, the BOP sent teams to Miami, Florida and Washington, D.C., the agency said in a statement.
Federal officials have been seen in Washington, D.C. without identifying uniforms or insignia. Some don’t wear uniforms – only t-shirts under their protective gear.
BOP, like other federal, state, and local LEOs, can be replaced under the authority granted the USMS to enforce federal criminal laws and protect federal property and personnel. The BOP crisis management teams do wear badges and do not wear BOP-specific clothing because they serve a broader mission, “the agency told NBC News.
Trump has been Deputy Attorney General Bill Barr to lead the protests and has enlisted law enforcement officers from several agencies, including the DEA and the Bureau of Prisons.
Attorney General William Barr, center, faces Lafayette Park opposite the White House on Monday before President Trump took his walk
Attorney General Bill Barr accompanied President Trump during his photo op to St. John’s Church
Michael Bromwich, former Inspector General of the Justice Department, said Huffington Post that allowing anonymous operations by federal law enforcement officers creates “a huge problem” for oversight.
“It undermines the ability to hold full-liability law enforcement officers guilty of misconduct,” he said. “You need to know who they are and certainly which agency they represent.”
But a Justice Department official pointed out that surveillance video would make it easy to identify officers. The protests have also been heavily filmed by the news media.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, Chairman of the Internal Security Committee Bennie Thompson and Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee Ray Grijalva sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday. , Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, on the treatment of protesters Monday evening.
“Using federal personnel to prevent U.S. citizens from exercising their constitutional right to peaceful assembly is a direct threat to our democracy,” they wrote, requesting a response on June 10.
And Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Murphy introduces legislation that requires all federal officers to identify themselves.
“We cannot tolerate an American secret police,” he noted.
“I will enact legislation to require that uniformed federal officers who perform homeland security duties state clearly which military department or service they represent,” he said.
Attorney General Bill Barr visits law enforcement officers who protect the White House
The government was criticized for using gas against protesters on Monday night
In addition, Barr is sending protestors arrested through the federal justice system, which has stricter sentences.
The move is because the DEA has been given new authority to ‘conduct covert surveillance’ and gather information about people participating in protests’ Buzzfeed News reported, citing a federal memo.
The 14-day authority also allows DEA agents to patrol and make arrests for non-drug offenses in public places.
It started with Trump’s now infamous photo shoot for St. John’s Church, where he held a Bible but did not offer prayers.
The Attorney General personally ordered that the area around Lafayette Park be cleared so that Trump could take his walk on Monday evening.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany made it clear in her briefing on Wednesday that Barr was in charge and was taking “appropriate action.”
“AG Barr had determined that we extend the perimeter on each side by one block,” she said of Monday’s event. “He was surprised – AG Barr – when he arrived at the White House to see that perimeter hadn’t moved. So he said we should start moving that perimeter. That’s what he told the officers out there. That was late afternoon. So that decision was made in the morning. “
Barr was seen in Lafayette Park, talking to officers shortly before Trump left the White House.
“The protesters were told three times through the loudspeaker that they had to move. And what happened became increasingly unruly. Projectiles were thrown at officers. Frozen water bottles were thrown at officers. Various other projectiles. And the agents had no choice but to act at the time and make sure they were safe and the perimeter was pushed back, “McEnany added.
But video footage and reports from witnesses on the ground noted that the protesters were peaceful.