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Attorney General William Barr said Saturday that federal officials have identified radical elements who are infiltrating peaceful protests against the death of George Floyd last week in order to cause mayhem and destruction.
“The outrage of our national community about what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is real and legitimate,” Barr said during a press conference, in reference to the alleged murder of Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
“Accountability for his death must be addressed, and is being addressed, through the regular process of our criminal justice system, both at the state and at the federal level,” Barr continued. “That system is working and moving at exceptional speed. Already initial charges have been filed. That process continues to move forward. Justice will be served.”
Initially, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, but additional charges could come later, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who added that three other officers on the scene and have since been fired are also “under investigation.”
“I anticipate charges,” Freeman said Friday of former officers Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng.
In his presser, Barr said while most people demonstrating against Floyd’s killing are doing so peacefully, their voices “are being hijacked by violent radical elements.”
“Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda,” he said. “In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchistic and far-left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence.”
While noting that “we must have law and order” in our cities, Barr added that it’s “the responsibility of local and state leadership, in the first instance,” to put a stop to the “violence.”
But, he said, the Justice Department’s various agencies including the FBI, U.S. Marshals and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “and all of our 93 U.S. attorneys…will support these local efforts and take all action necessary to enforce federal law.”
On that note, Barr made clear “it is a federal crime to cross state lines or to use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting. We will enforce these laws.”
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) September 22, 2016
Riots and violence allegedly tied to Floyd’s death have continued into the weekend, with groups ignoring local curfews in some parts of the country while police officers and police precincts are attacked and demolished.
President Donald Trump has also denounced the rioting and pledged full federal support to states and local governments dealing with violence. On Saturday, he said in a tweet that 80 percent of rioters in Minneapolis were from out of state.
The president also noted that crossing state lines to “incite violence is a federal crime.”
The president addressed the violence during a press conference to discuss the successful SpaceX launch on Saturday.
“The main victims of this horrible, horrible situations are the citizens who live in these once lovely communities. The mobs are devastating the life’s work of good people and destroying their dream,” he said.
“Right now, America needs creation, not destruction, cooperation, not contempt, security, not anarchy and there will be no anarchy. Civilization must be cherished, defended, and protected. The voices of law-abiding citizens must be heard and heard very loudly,” he added.
“We cannot and must not allow a small group of criminals and vandals to wreck our cities and lay waste to our communities…My administration will stop mob violence and we’ll stop it cold.”
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