Jun 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Over 1,200 ex-DOJ officials call for probe into Barr's role in clearing protesters

Bill Barr

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1,250 former Department of Justice employees have signed a letter asking the department's inspector general to investigate Attorney General Bill Barr's role in police forcibly removing a group of mostly peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square last week.

Why it matters: Barr has acknowledged that he gave the order to extend the security perimeter around the White House, but has denied giving the tactical command to officers. He also claims there was "no correlation" between the decision and President Trump's subsequent visit to St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo op, and has accused the media of lying about the protesters being peaceful.

What they're saying: "While the full scope of the Attorney General’s role is not yet clear, he has admitted that he was present in front of the White House before law enforcement personnel took action to disperse the crowd," the former DOJ officials wrote.

  • "After the order was given, and before the start of a city-imposed curfew, federal law enforcement officers in riot gear reportedly fired rubber bullets, chemical gas, smoke canisters, and stun grenades at peaceful protesters, and otherwise used excessive force, physically injuring many people, including journalists and an Episcopal priest who had come to give food and water to the protestors."
  • "Based on what we now know, these actions violated both the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects freedom of speech and the press, and the right to assemble; and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable seizures, to include objectively unreasonable uses of force by law enforcement officers."

The former employees said they had concerns about the use of federal law enforcement agents around the country, expressing "profound doubts" that they were adequately trained in policing mass protests.

  • “Especially in view of the events in Lafayette Square, we have no assurance that these officers are lawfully deployed, that they will respect the rights of the civilians they encounter, or that there are proper mechanisms in place to identify and investigate possible law enforcement misconduct,”

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