Rapidly proliferating violence across the nation has prompted Attorney General Bill Barr to step in and issue a dire warning to rioters taking advantage of protests against the wrongful death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Barr warned rioters on Saturday, “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.”
Protests were initially prompted after video footage showing Floyd being pinned down by a Minneapolis police officer Derik Chauvin until his death on Monday went viral.
The protests turned to riots on Friday, spreading to major cities all over the US and leaving a path of destruction, injuries, and even deaths in their wake.
Attorney General Bill Barr came forward to issue a statement on the violent protests in a Saturday press conference.
“Unfortunately with the rioting that is occurring in many of our cities around the country, the voices of peaceful protests are being hijacked by violent radical elements,” Barr said. “Groups of outside radical agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda.”
“In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchic and leftist extremist groups, far-left extremist groups using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom traveled outside the state to promote the violence,” he continued.
Barr’s comments echo President Trump’s assertion that outside forces prompted previously peaceful protests to turn violent. Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that “It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left. Don’t lay the blame on others!”
Barr said he will go after violent protestors by invoking the federal Anti-Riot Act, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Penalties for violating the anti-riot act can include prison sentences of up to five years.
Justice for Floyd
Barr and Trump have taken a hardline stance against violent and senseless riots, but have been equally vocal about the intention to pursue justice for Floyd.
“The outrage of our national community about what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is real and legitimate,” Barr said. “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.”
He 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.”