US Attorney General William Barr and two top Justice Department officials have called on federal prosecutors to charge BLM protestors with sedition.
Barr did this in an internal memo sent to all US attorneys a few days ago.
Barr was specifically addressing violent protesters who have caused structural damage to public and private buildings through arson, looting, and burglary. His number two, Jeffery Rosen, encouraged prosecutors to take aggressive approaches against such demonstrators.
The memo specified that state prosecutors do not need to show direct proof of sedition. Barr wrote, “In appropriate cases – for instance, where a group has conspired to take a federal courthouse or other federal property by force – you should consider a charge.”
Sedition is a rarely-used charge in US court. The statute makes ‘plotting to overthrow the US government’ illegal. According to the statute, anyone who stops authorities from enforcing their legal power can be found guilty of ‘seditious conspiracy’.
If someone is found guilty of this crime, they can face up to 20 years of imprisonment. Sedition charges are only brought up when there is an anti-government militia.
For example, US prosecutors used the law to incriminate people fighting against the US armed forces after the 9/11 attacks.
Barr brought up sedition charges to highlight how racial-justice protests escalate into violence, especially after George Floyd’s murder. He specifically cited examples of protests in Washington DC and Portland, Oregon.
In line with his message in the memo, Barr allegedly asked whether Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan could be arrested under sedition charges after allowing the public to make police-free zones.
While pushing federal employees to bring criminal charges against the protestors, he stringently denies systemic racism in the US. People have criticized him heavily on social media, pointing out the hypocrisy in his reaction to BLM protests and anti-lockdown protests.
Barr supported anti-masker and anti-lockdown protests in March, reportedly comparing the COVID-19 lockdown to ‘slavery’.
His urging prosecutors to be more ‘aggressive’ with BLM protestors is described as hypocrisy as he did not do the same when anti-lockdown protestors became violent in early March.