AG Barr: ‘Catastrophic danger’ is over, state and city governments need to back off

Get the latest BPR news delivered free to your inbox daily. SIGN UP HERE.


US Attorney General William Barr believes the time has come in the battle against the coronavirus crisis to begin “rolling back” state and local government restrictions.

Barr suggested that adjustments need to start being made now that the “curve has been flattened” and reiterated that the “Bill of Rights doesn’t go away” at a time of national emergency such as the country has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.


(Source: Justice Dept./Twitter)

The attorney general’s comments were part of his first nationwide “Ask the AG” Twitter question-and-answer session on Friday when he responded to four out of thousands of submitted queries.

One Twitter user asked Barr about the constitutional rights of Americans amid state-enforced lockdowns which are being protested in many places around the nation.

“How do you plan to ensure that the Constitutional Rights of Citizens that are currently being impeded by state and city elected officials in regards to personal liberty, religion, and speech during the lockdown orders of the COVID-19 Pandemic is stopped?” Catherine Darsey asked.

The attorney general explained how the government has the authority to temporarily impose restrictions in the event of “catastrophic danger” facing citizens and noted how the initial constraints were “appropriate.”

“Thank you for your question about protecting the Bill of Rights during the pandemic,” Barr’s response began.

“The government unquestionably has the right when it’s facing an immediate, catastrophic danger to public safety to impose reasonable and temporary restrictions,” he said.

“But the Bill of Rights doesn’t go away during a crisis like this, but what it does do is it requires the government justify any restrictions as truly necessary and ensure that there are not other ways of addressing the government’s interests are less burdensome on our rights,” Barr continued.

“Now, when this crisis first emerged, I think it was appropriate to have initially broad restrictions because we didn’t know much about the disease except that it was very contagious and we didn’t want it to overwhelm our healthcare system,” he added.

Barr went on to point out that the progress made against the pandemic indicated that “it’s time” for an easing of the restrictions, pointing to the “sensible” plan being proposed by President Donald Trump to re-open the nation again.

“But now that the curve has been flattened, the rate of spread has been slowed, our system has not been overwhelmed and has time to adjust to this situation, it’s time to start rolling back some of these restrictions in an orderly and sensible way,” Barr said.

“And the president has provided his opening — the United States Again plan — that provides a sensible approach to doing that, a framework for doing that,” he added, referring to Trump’s guidelines for the “Opening Up America Again” plan.

The attorney general continued his response to the Twitter question by noting again that the Justice Department is on the “lookout” for an overreach by state and local governments.

“So we are on the lookout for restrictions that are too wide-spread, too generalized and are unduly discriminatory to liberties such as religious liberty or speech. And we try to work with the state and local governments to address these concerns, and in the appropriate case we would consider taking action,” he said, echoing remarks he made in a memo issued this week.

Barr advised federal prosecutors across the country to be on guard against any policies being issued that could be in violation of citizens’ rights and civil liberties, adding that the Justice Department would intervene if the constitutional rights of citizens were violated by any measures implemented by authorities in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Irate and quarantine-weary Americans have begun pushing back against local governments imposing and extending stringent restrictions even as lawmakers continue to wield their emergency powers.

California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a “hard close” of all beaches in Orange County after thousands headed to the shore last weekend. The Democrat governor’s move prompted scores of protesters to head out in front of the Huntington Beach Pier on Friday to denounce the authoritarian order.

Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois is being sued by a church in his state for his “hostility” towards religious faith and for violating the constitutional rights of churchgoers in extending through May the existing ban he issued on religious gatherings.

Maine Governor Janet Mills got pushback from local businesses as she announced that her stay-at-home orders will continue until mid-May in the state of over one million people which has had 33 coronavirus hospitalizations and 53 deaths due to the disease.

Frieda Powers

Comments

Latest Articles