Feds across multiple agencies pressed into DOJ’s protest crackdown
- By Nathan Abse
- Jun 04, 2020
Federal employees serving in an unusually wide assortment of law enforcement and investigative agencies are being pulled into management of national protests following the police detention and killing of George Floyd, according to a report in the Washington Post.
The Trump administration is orchestrating a federal pushback against many of the protests seen in over 400 cities across the U.S. -- most simply decrying unequal treatment of blacks and other minorities at the hands of the nation’s law enforcement organizations. Many of the demonstrations have consisted of thousands of people.
To facilitate a wider federal presence, and particularly but not exclusively in the District of Columbia, the Department of Justice has conferred temporary expanded authority to many of its component agencies, pushing them beyond their normal responsibilities. Those new duties include the conducting “covert surveillance” and making arrests for wide scope of infractions, ranging from vandalism to terrorism. Feds so assigned and put in the protest areas come from an alphabet soup of federal power, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have publicly justified the reassignments and the use of federal force in the demonstrations, claiming that domestic terrorists and other significant threat actors lurk among the protesters that opposition political leaders and news reports argue are overwhelmingly ordinary Americans demanding change to a status quo in which nonwhite detainees and suspects are profiled, stopped and killed by police far more often than whites.
In related news reports, critics of the administration argue that its policing of the protesters has been excessive, most notably in ordering U.S. Park Police and other federal law enforcement officers to clear D.C.’s Lafayette Park to permit Trump to walk to a historic church nearby for a photo op. Some critics, including a handful of lawmakers who are usually lockstep White House allies, have said they do not condone what they see as excessive federal force, and others have decried an erroneous and unnecessary blurring of jurisdictional and operational lines between agencies, and federal and local law enforcement organizations.