Attorney General William Barr reportedly told federal prosecutors to consider charging violent protesters with plotting to overthrow the government, if they can prove it.
Barr’s advice came as he warned U.S. attorneys general in a call earlier in September that violent demonstrations might worsen as Election Day draws closer, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Among several federal charges Barr encouraged prosecutors to pursue, he cited the sedition law, a rarely used statute legal experts argue would be difficult to enforce. In order to bring a sedition case, prosecutors would have to look beyond rhetoric and prove there was a conspiracy to attack government officials that posed an imminent danger.
First Amendment protections would also create an additional barrier for the statute to be proved in court.
Jenny Carroll, a University of Alabama law professor, told the Wall Street Journal enforcing a statute such as sedition would send a message that the government is escalating its efforts to quell violence and might lead to hesitation for people to use their right to voice their opinions.
“If you start charging those people, even if you don’t get a conviction, it may make people think twice before going out to exercise their right to free speech,” Carroll said.
Federal prosecutors charged more than 200 people with violent crimes related to protests over racial injustice that have gone on for several months.
Most of the charges have been related to incidents of gun crimes, arson, and assaulting federal officers.
Protests, which, at times, have turned violent and into episodes of rioting, began after the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. More recently, the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, reignited protest activity against police brutality and racial injustice.
The post William Barr encourages prosecutors to consider sedition charges for violent protesters: Report appeared first on Washington Examiner.