Attorney General Bill Barr just stepped into the conversation about the ongoing protests against overly restrictive social distancing orders that have popped up all over the nation.
In an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program on Tuesday, Barr told the host that the Department of Justice may have to get involved with the purported interferences with personal liberty in some areas.
The constitution isn’t voided by emergencies
“Our federal constitutional rights don’t go away in an emergency. They constrain what the government can do,” Barr told Hewitt.
“And in a circumstance like this, they put on the government the burden to make sure that whatever burdens it’s putting on our constitutional liberties are strictly necessary to deal with the problem.”
“They have to be targeted,” Barr continued. “They have to use less intrusive means if they are equally effective in dealing with the problem. And that’s the situation we’re in today. We’re moving into a period where we have to do a better job of targeting the measures we’re deploying to deal with this virus.”
He went on to say that the stay-at-home orders in place across much of the nation are “disturbingly close to house arrest,” though he did acknowledge that they may have been necessary for a time.
He explained that though the orders may have been “justified,” now that the goal of those orders — namely, slowing the spread and flattening the curve of the virus — has been achieved, “now we have to come up with more targeted approaches.”
States erupt in protests
Protests against extended quarantine orders that have stripped many of their livelihoods and locked them in their houses have exploded in dozens of states across the union in recent days.
Some have protested against what is characterized as government overreach — the banning of outdoor activities and the sale of non-essential items, others are protesting simply to get back to work as the economy continues to experience massive losses.
Hewitt suggested that some may even sue state governments for infringing on their first amendment rights. Barr affirmed that may be the case, and that “if people bring those lawsuits, we’ll take a look at it at that time.”
“And if we think it’s, you know, justified, we [DOJ] would take a position,” he disclosed.
“That’s what we’re doing now. We, you know, we’re looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place. And if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them. And if they’re not and people bring lawsuits, we file [a] statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs.”