- Attorney General William Barr told prosecutors to bring aggressive charges against those involved in protests including sedition, according to reports.
- The charge of sedition is levied for alleged attempts to overthrow the government and has rarely been used, the Wall Street Journal reported.
- Barr also called for criminal charges against Seattle’s mayor over the city’s autonomous police-free zone during the protests earlier this summer.
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Attorney General William Barr told prosecutors to bring aggressive charges against those involved in protests including bringing charges of plotting to overthrow the government, several outlets reported.
Barr reportedly made the assertion in call with federal prosecutors last week where he also said that demonstrations that could turn violent are likely to increase ahead of the November presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Some on the call including US attorneys from across the country were alarmed by the suggestion to charge protesters with sedition, The New York Times reported.
The Journal reported that sedition charges are rarely used. Legal experts said in order for there to be a sedition charge there has to be proof that there was a conspiracy to attack government officials or agents that posed an “imminent danger,” and they warned that there’s a fine line between anti-government sentiment that could be protected as free speech, and a plot to overthrow the government.
Two people briefed on the discussions told The Times that Barr also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to see if they could bring criminal charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan over the autonomous police free zone that was created by protesters earlier this summer.
“The attorney general seems personally, deeply offended by the autonomous zone and wants someone to pay for it,” Chuck Rosenberg, the former US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, told The Times. “If the people of Seattle are personally offended, they have political recourse. There is no reason to try to stretch a criminal statute to cover the conduct.”
In June, President Donald Trump called protesters in the zone “domestic terrorists.” Durkan defended the protesters and said: “Demanding we do better as a society and provide true equity for communities of color is not terrorism — it is patriotism.”
According to The Journal, more than 200 people have been charged with violent crimes such as arson, assault on federal officers, or gun-related crimes in relation to the protests, but FBI officials have said those charged are mostly “opportunistic individuals” who took advantage of the protests.
Trump has called for protests to be quashed and advocated for more cases and longer sentences to be brought against violent protesters.
Barr’s calls for aggressive charges and those against Durkan come as Barr told a Chicago Tribune columnistt that if Trump lost the November election the US faced a “clear fork in the road,” and that it would on the brink of destruction.