Attorney General William Barr told the country’s federal prosecutors to be aggressive in accusing violent protesters of crimes, including potentially prosecuting them for plotting to overthrow the U.S. government, insiders said.
In a conference call with U.S. lawyers across the country last week, Mr Barr warned that sometimes violent demonstrations in the United States could worsen as the November presidential election approaches. He encouraged prosecutors to seek a number of federal charges, including a rarely used riot law, even when state charges can be applied, people said.
The call underscores Mr Barr’s priority in prosecuting violent crimes during months of protests against racial injustice, leading to major property damage, as President Trump has cracked down on violence and destruction. property is a key issue of the campaign. American lawyers have a wide margin of appreciation as to what charges they make.
Federal prosecutors have charged more than 200 people with violent crimes related to the protests, most of whom face arson, assault on federal officers or gun crimes. FBI officials earlier this year described the perpetrators as largely opportunistic individuals taking advantage of the protests.
In recent months, police have said they are worried about the presence of armed coastal groups on both sides of the political spectrum. Mr Barr blamed much of the violence on left-wing extremists, including the antifa, a loose network of groups and people who identified themselves as anti-fascism and whom Mr Barr described as a movement defending the revolution.