US Attorney General William Barr testifies before the House Judiciary Committee in the Congressional Auditorium at the US Capitol Visitors Center, in Washington, on July 28, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)
US Attorney General William Barr has called on top prosecutors to bring a rarely used sedition charge against people protesting against police and racism in recent months, US media reported.
In a conference call with attorneys across the US last week, Barr warned that the protests could worsen as the November presidential election approaches and told top Justice Department prosecutors that he wants them to be aggressive in bringing charges related to protest violence, multiple reports said Wednesday.
His highly unusual suggestion to charge protesters with sedition, which makes it a crime to conspire to overthrow the US government, has alarmed many, including US attorneys around the country.
Barr has also asked prosecutors in the Justice Departmentís civil rights division to explore whether they could bring criminal charges against Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle for allowing a police-free protest zone near the cityís downtown.
Mayor Durkan, a Democrat, has repeatedly come under attack by President Donald Trump, who sent his federal troops into cities across the country to crack down on protests in a move that led to clashes between protesters and federal officers.
Just like Trump, Barr has also blamed much of the violence on "leftist extremists," describing them as a movement that advocates revolution.
Since June, federal prosecutors have charged more than 200 people with violent crimes related to the anti-racism protests - followed the killing of African American George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in late May.
Most of them face counts of arson, assaulting federal officers, or gun crimes, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Floydís death sparked similar protests across the country, including in Portland where anti-racism protesters stayed put on the streets practically every night, ever since.
Recently, tensions have escalated between Trump supporters and protester in Portland. In an incident last month, the clashes resulted in the shooting death of a Trump supporter Aaron Danielson.
Michael Reinoehl, the man suspected of the killing, was later shot dead by federal troops in Lacey, Washington.
Eelier this month, Kyle Rittenhouse, a President Donald Trump supporter, shot three protesters, two fatally, with an assault rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests against police violence. The 17-year-old vigilante has been charged with two counts of first degree murder and attempted murder.
Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has condemned disorder at demonstrations, and has defended peaceful protesters, arguing justice must be served in cases of "unwarranted police violence." He called for rioters and looters to be prosecuted.
Biden accused Trump of fomenting violence, saying that, "Fires are burning and we have a president who fans the flames rather than fighting the flames."