Report Shows Justice Department Engaged in Selective Prosecutions to Maximize Sanctions Against “Black Lives Matter” Protesters

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Under Trump, the DOJ has done everything possible to break the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement, which regained strength last spring following another murder of an unarmed black man by a white cop. It is according to a report [PDF] by the Movement for Black Lives, who reviewed BLM-related prosecutions led by federal prosecutors.

The federal government has deliberately targeted Black Lives Matter protesters via harsh criminal prosecutions in an attempt to disrupt and deter the global movement that swept through the nation last summer following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police , according to a new report released Wednesday by the Black Lives Movement.

[…]

The report also highlights the glaring difference in how the government handled COVID-19 protests against local government shutdowns and mask warrants amid the pandemic during the same period. It analyzes 326 criminal cases initiated by US federal prosecutors for alleged behavior related to protests following Floyd’s murder and police murders of other black Americans, from May 31, 2020 to October 25, 2020.

The report’s most damning findings point to a Justice Department led by Bill Barr – which quickly aligned itself with President Trump and his claims that social justice protests were largely made up of criminals and anarchists , rather than peaceful protesters seeking to change an unjust justice system.

The report points out that the federal government has needlessly taken control of the prosecution, exploiting loosely defined “interstate commerce” laws to lay federal charges against arrested protesters – charges carrying more severe penalties than similar charges at the level of the police. States.

For example, the Federal Arson Act, 18 USC § 844, has subsections that not only confer federal jurisdiction over offenses against any property owned by an entity that receives federal funding, but against any property merely affecting interstate commerce. . This report found that the general parameters of the law were widely used against defendants who allegedly damaged or attempted to damage local police vehicles, police stations or government buildings and / or property. Unfortunately, because federal courts have accepted such arguments in the past, the government’s argument for supporting a finding of federal jurisdiction in these cases on the grounds of interstate commerce was simply to assert that these local government entities affect commerce. interstate. When the government attempted to establish federal jurisdiction because the entity was receiving some federal funding, criminal complaints would simply assert, often without any reference to government funding data, that the local government or police department had received. some form of federal financial assistance — as almost all governments and police services do.

Federal prosecutors have also used ultra-thin claims about an interstate connection to stack the charges.

Prosecutors charge Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal with four counts of arson for allegedly trying to set two police vehicles on fire. Prosecutors are laying multiple counts for each attempted arson, relying on separate provisions in federal arson law, claiming the police vehicles were owned by a police department that received federal funding , which implies 18 USC § 844 (f), and because the same police vehicles affected interstate commerce, which implies 18 USC § 844 (i). As a result, Blumenthal now faces possible conviction on four separate counts, each carrying a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of twenty years in federal prison.

Even the damage done to local businesses by the rioters was borne by federal prosecutors, who used flimsy pretexts like purchasing supplies from foreign suppliers to meet interstate commerce requirements.

And, in one case detailed in the report, a man faces criminal possession charges for carrying supplies capable of creating a Molotov cocktail. According to federal prosecutors, a Molotov cocktail (even in an unassembled state) is considered a “firearm”. And the interstate connection was satisfied because the empty bottle was made by an out-of-state manufacturer.

Hoping to deter future protests by making the ongoing protests as painful as possible for those arrested, federal prosecutors have let their imaginations run wild.

Prosecutors charge Tia Deyon with civil unrest for allegedly smashing the window of a police vehicle in the city of Mobile, Alabama. In order to argue that federal jurisdiction exists, the government has used an unusually specious basis, even among the most egregious charges in this case. The government argued that its actions impacted interstate commerce because the larger group of protesters that Pugh was a part of were heading towards an interstate highway. The group never reached the highway, as the local police preventively closed the access ramps giving access to the highway. The government says its own preventative ramp closure caused traffic delays and therefore impacted interstate commerce.

As the DOJ and the President said things about “violent protesters” (and unintelligible and unbearable things about “dangerous antifa”), this was the reality of the situation. Even non-violent quasi-crimes were exaggerated by federal prosecutors to guarantee a maximum sentence for minimum offenses.

Unsurprisingly, the data does not support the government’s allegations of violence and intimidation. There are many instances where the federal government has laid charges against people for conduct as minor as disobeying an order from a federal officer or for pointing a laser pointer at the police (not at a police officer). agent in particular). In a press release from the Department of Justice describing the movement as hijacked by “violent agitators” on the basis of 74 federal criminal cases, 37 cases concerned assault against an officer. as the federal agents themselves have described it, the “flimsy” plastic shields during encounters with law enforcement; 17 cases concerned non-compliance with a legal order, non-violent (in) action; and 11 of those cases involved charges of such minor conduct that the defendants were convicted of summons violations.

As you might expect, most of these lawsuits took place in Portland, Oregon, the first place Donald Trump sent his strikebreakers police to manage the demonstrations in the so-called “anarchist jurisdiction”. And it wasn’t just about putting people who believe black lives matter in their place. The Justice Department’s selective prosecutions were also apparently politically motivated, resulting in a different kind of over-representation in federal affairs.

Of the 326 federal cases reviewed, 271 (83%) were in Democratic governor states, with only 56 (17%) in Republican governor states. […] This disparity is even more marked if we consider that at the time of the uprising, the proportion of states with republican leadership (54%) exceeded that of states with Democratic leadership (46%).

The DOJ barely bothered to disguise its desire to disrupt the Black Lives Matter movement and quell dissent targeting law enforcement. The man who runs the country has made no attempt to conceal his contempt for all those who questioned the police or the tactics of their agents. The statistics compiled here clearly show that the DOJ has engaged in targeted prosecutions designed to inflict maximum punishment on those the former president viewed as political or ideological enemies.

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Filed Under: anarchist jurisdictions, antifa, bill barr, black lives matter, doj, protests, selective prosecutions


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