Barr says feds will treat instigators of riots as domestic terrorists under federal law

AG says violence 'undercuts the urgent work that needs to be done ... to address legitimate grievances' about police misconduct.

Published: May 31, 2020 4:00pm

Updated: June 1, 2020 4:42pm

Attorney General William P. Barr said Sunday that activists who have instigated rioting across the country will be treated as domestic terrorists under federal law.

"Federal law enforcement actions will be directed at apprehending and charging the violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law," Barr said in a statement, adding that the investigations will be handled by the Justice Department's existing network of 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces. 

"The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly," he added.

The attorney general's statement came after another night of rioting across the country over the death of an African-American man at the hands of Minneapolis police last Monday. Cities across the country were consumed Saturday night and Sunday morning by clashes between protesters and police and countless fires and other criminal acts ranging from looting and theft to assault on officers and the use of incendiary devises.

Earlier, President Trump said the radical liberal group Antifa would be declared a terrorist organization.

Barr beckoned local authorities to increase their enforcement efforts to stop the violence, like Minneapolis did by imposing curfews and summoning a significant presence of the National Guard.

"It is time to stop watching the violence and to confront and stop it.  The continued violence and destruction of property endangers the lives and livelihoods of others, and interferes with the rights of peaceful protestors, as well as all other citizens," he said. 

"It is the responsibility of state and local leaders to ensure that adequate law enforcement resources, including the National Guard where necessary, are deployed on the streets to reestablish law and order.  We saw this finally happen in Minneapolis last night, and it worked," he said.

Barr also offered support to those protesting peacefully over the tragic death in Minneapolis, saying the current violence "undercuts the urgent work that needs to be done – through constructive engagement between affected communities and law enforcement leaders – to address legitimate grievances.  Preventing reconciliation and driving us apart is the goal of these radical groups, and we cannot let them succeed."

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