U.S. Attorney General William Barr defended the federal law enforcement response to civil unrest in America at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, saying that “violent rioters” have hijacked protests sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Pramila Jayapal, U.S. Representative for Washington’s 7th Congressional District, accused Barr of handling the Portland protests in a politically-motivated way.
Jayapal questioned why Barr failed to crack down with similar force on largely pro-Trump protesters who took over the Michigan courthouse, some of whom directed death threats at the state’s governor.
In response, Barr said he was unaware of these protests and that since they were not federal property, it was outside his jurisdiction.
Jayapal said on CNN that federal agents in Portland, Ore., have gone far beyond simply protecting federal property.
“They are not just protecting the federal courthouse,” she said. “They are blocks away from the federal courthouse, picking up people in unmarked vans, I mean, serious constitutional violations.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that federal agents in Portland will begin a “phased withdrawal,” and will begin leaving the city’s downtown area on Thursday.
In recent history, sending federal officials into U.S. cities like this is unprecedented, Jayapal said at Tuesday’s hearing.
“Rarely is it the case, in recent history, that federal officials are sent in to a state without the governor’s consent, without the mayor’s consent, with no coordination whatsoever,” Jayapal said. “That is absolutely absurd and ludicrous.”
She also pointed out that while Barr has been quick to act on protests in Portland and elsewhere, he’s failed to push governors to implement mask orders that would protect Americans.
“Bill Barr isn’t in Alabama, and Georgia, and Florida making sure that those governors are forcing people to wear masks and not reopen too quickly,” she said. “Those are causing far more deaths to American lives through the spread of COVID-19 than, you know, some protesters at some building in Portland, Oregon.”
The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.
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