Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr announced Friday he will create a task force to address "anti-government extremists," as protests continue over police brutality and systemic racism.

Why it matters: The establishment of the task force further escalates federal law enforcement's response to violence that sometimes emerges amid otherwise peaceful demonstrations.

What he's saying: "Among other lawless conduct, these extremists have violently attacked police officers and other government officials, destroyed public and private property, and threatened innocent people," Barr wrote.

  • "Although these extremists profess a variety of ideologies, they are united in their opposition to the core constitutional values of a democratic society governed by law. ...Some pretend to profess a message of freedom and progress, but they are in fact forces of anarchy, destruction, and coercion."
  • Barr specifically called out Boogaloo, a radical right-wing group, and Antifa, a far-left-leaning group.
  • In an interview with NPR this week, Barr said the Justice Department has “approximately 300 investigations” across the U.S., with some involving individuals who identify as Antifa.

The state of play: The task force will be led by Craig Carpenito, U.S. attorney for New Jersey, and Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, as well as representatives from the FBI and federal prosecutor offices across the country, according to Barr's memo.

  • The group will share data with local law enforcement, provide training and resources to local authorities and help prosecute anti-government extremists.

Go deeper: DOJ to treat antifa involvement in protests as domestic terrorism

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Why it matters: The comments set off outrage and calls for clarification from a number of Republican senators. After being asked several times on Wednesday whether he will condemn white supremacy, Trump responded, "I have always denounced any form — any form of any of that, you have to denounce. But I also — Joe Biden has to say something about antifa."

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Why it matters: PhRMA president and CEO Stephen Ubl warned that the order puts "improper bureaucratic hurdles and restrictions on speech" within private companies that have contracts and grants with the federal government, jeopardizing "meaningful dialogue on the values for which this nation stands."

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The major police reforms enacted since George Floyd's death

Federal officers in Portland, Oregon on July 21. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Nationwide Black Lives Matter protests sparked by George Floyd's killing have put new pressure on states and cities to scale back the force that officers can use on civilians.

Why it matters: Police reforms of this scale have not taken place since the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, following George Zimmerman's acquittal for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager.