DOJ Inspector General launches investigation into law enforcement tactics against protesters in DC and Portland

The Inspector General of the Justice Department recently announced launching an investigation into the role of Attorney General William Barr ordering the attack on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square in front of the White House last month.

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Image Credit: Mandel Ngan AFP via Getty Images

In response to requests from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other legislators, the Inspector General of the Justice Department recently announced launching an investigation into the role of Attorney General William Barr ordering the attack on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square in front of the White House last month. Barr also announced his office is participating in an investigation into the recent actions of federal law enforcement targeting protesters in Portland, Oregon.

On June 2, Attorney General Barr issued the following press release: “Last night was a more peaceful night in the District of Columbia. Working together, federal and local law enforcement made significant progress in restoring order to the nation’s capital.”

Barr added, “Not least, I am grateful to the many federal law enforcement agencies and personnel who helped protect the District, including the FBI, Secret Service, Park Police, ATF, DEA, Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Marshals Service, Capitol Police, Department of Homeland Security’s CBP and Border Patrol units, and others.”

That same day, Sen. Warren sent a letter to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz requesting a federal investigation into Barr’s role in ordering federal agencies to deploy rubber bullets and chemical agents against peaceful protesters. On June 1, federal law enforcement officials fired tear gas at protesters near Lafayette Square in order to allow President Donald Trump to take a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

In her letter to Horowitz, Warren wrote, “This ‘ambush’ of American citizens who were protesting the killing of Mr. Floyd at the hands of a police officer was created to allow the President to partake in a blatantly political photo opportunity. These attacks on peaceful American protesters steps from the White House were sickening and appalling.”

The senator added, “The role of Attorney General Barr in ordering this attack and then participating in a political propaganda event with the President, and the potential roles of DOJ law enforcement personnel, raise troubling questions about how and why this attack against law-abiding citizens occurred.”

On Thursday, Horowitz responded in a letter to Warren. He wrote, “After assessing these issues, and in response your request and those from other Members of Congress and the public, the DOJ OIG is initiating a review to examine the DOJ’s and its law enforcement components’ roles and responsibilities in responding to protest activity and civil unrest in Washington, D.C., and in Portland, Oregon over the prior two months. The review will include examining the training and instruction that was provided to the DOJ law enforcement personnel; compliance with applicable identification requirements, rules of engagement, and legal authorities; and adherence to DOJ policies regarding the use of less-lethal munitions, chemical agents, and other uses of force. With regard to events in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, the DOJ OIG will coordinate our review with the Department of Interior OIG, which recently announced its review of those events. If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.”

That same day, Horowitz released the following statement: “In response to Congressional requests, complaints received by the OIG, and a referral from the U.S. Attorney in Oregon, the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has opened an investigation into use of force allegations involving DOJ law enforcement personnel in Portland, Oregon in July 2020. The DOJ OIG will coordinate our investigation with the Department of Homeland Security OIG.”

In addition to using non-lethal rounds and chemical agents against protesters, masked federal agents have also been recorded on video arresting demonstrators without a warrant or probable cause before driving off in unmarked vehicles.

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