President Donald Trump portrays the hundreds of people arrested nationwide in protests against racial injustice as violent urban left-wing radicals. But an Associated Press review of thousands of pages of court documents tells a different story.
Very few of those charged appear to be affiliated with highly organized extremist groups, and many are young suburban adults from the very neighborhoods Trump vows to protect from the violence in his reelection push to win support from the suburbs.
Attorney General William Barr has urged his prosecutors to bring federal charges on protesters who cause violence and has suggested that rarely used sedition charges could apply. And the Department of Justice has pushed for detention even as prisons across the U.S. were releasing high-risk inmates because of COVID-19 and prosecutors had been told to consider the risks of incarceration during a pandemic when seeking detention.
Defense attorneys and civil rights activists are questioning why the Department of Justice has taken on cases to begin with. They say most belong in state court, where defendants typically get much lighter sentences. And they argue federal authorities appear to be cracking down on protesters in an effort to stymie demonstrations. [Continue reading…]