Barr defends aggressive federal response to protests

Attorney general pushes back against Democrats who said President Trump's administration is suppressing dissent. Barr says there is no systemic racism in law enforcement.

By

National News

July 29, 2020 - 9:28 AM

U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 in Washington, D.C. In his first congressional testimony in more than a year, Barr faced questions from the committee about his deployment of federal law enforcement agents to Portland, Oregon, and other cities in response to Black Lives Matter protests; his role in using federal agents to violently clear protesters from Lafayette Square near the White House last month before a photo opportunity for President Donald Trump in front of a church; his intervention in court cases involving Trump's allies Roger Stone and Michael Flynn; and other issues. Photo by (Chip Somodevilla/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr defended the aggressive federal law enforcement response to civil unrest in America as he testified for the first time before the House Judiciary Committee, pushing back against angry, skeptical Democrats who said President Donald Trump’s administration is unconstitutionally suppressing dissent. 

The hearing, held Tuesday as the late civil rights icon John Lewis lay in state steps away outside the Capitol, highlighted the wide election-year gulf between the two parties on police brutality and systemic racism in law enforcement. Massive protests have sparked unrest across the nation following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, and calls for police reform are growing louder. 

But Barr said “violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests” and argued the violence taking place in Portland, Oregon, and other cities is disconnected from Floyd’s killing, which he called a “horrible” event that prompted a necessary national reckoning on the relationship between the Black community and law enforcement. But he also said there was no systemic racism in law enforcement. 

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