The top prosecutor in the nation’s capital said the Justice Department has charged 150 people in cases related to acts of violence during protests that followed the death of George Floyd.
Acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin, picked by Attorney General William Barr in mid-May after a stint as deputy attorney general for national security, revealed the number on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show Thursday evening while providing an update on the Justice Department’s law enforcement efforts tied to the demonstrations over the past five weeks.
“Under the leadership of President Trump, and the direction of the Attorney General, the United States attorney’s offices across the United States have charged to date 150 federal cases related not only to the destruction of federal property but also a litany of other crimes that really have been lost in the shuffle,” Sherwin said. “In addition to the arson cases, there are several other federal charges that a been levied across the United States … related to murder in California, to arson throughout the United States, and destruction of properties.”
The 150 figure is a jump from the number given by Barr on month ago. The attorney general announced on June 4 that the federal government had made 51 arrests “for federal crimes in connection with violent rioting.”
The Justice Department charged four men for attempting to tear down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square in late June. Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged and arrested Jason Charter — a “ring leader” of the leftist anarchic and socialist group Antifa — both for his role in attempting to tear down the Andrew Jackson statue and vandalizing the statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike.
“People can’t unilaterally decide what is right and what is wrong,” Sherwin said. “And If those people do make that decision on their own and take the law into their own hands, the law will come after them and the United States will use federal resources to charge you if you’re inciting violence or destroying these monuments. Obviously we will use all resources to protect these monuments both in the D.C. area and throughout the United States, but we are also using these resources not only to charge federal cases … but also what people don’t realize is the fact that under the direction of the attorney general, the FBI, and other federal law enforcement officials have leveraged and worked with local officials throughout the United States to charge hundreds of other cases.”
Sherwin said the federal government helped with obtaining local charges such as assault and battery and theft.
“Even though we don’t get a federal stat for those cases, there are hundreds of other cases the federal government has used to assist those local law enforcement agencies to ensure that, look, this violence will not be tolerated and it cannot be condoned in any way, he said. Sherwin stressed that “there is a difference between these crimes and legitimate protests.”
Protests have taken place across the country and around the world after Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died in police custody on Memorial Day after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned him down by placing a knee on the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder. Footage of the incident set off a wave of outrage and some of the demonstrations have had violent offshoots in which people have rioted, looted stores, destroyed property, burned buildings, and clashed with police.
President Trump signed an executive order in late June aimed at encouraging federal law enforcement to protect federal monuments.
“Anarchists and left-wing extremists have sought to advance a fringe ideology that paints the United States of America as fundamentally unjust and have sought to impose that ideology on Americans through violence and mob intimidation,” Trump said.
The Justice Department charged Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal with felony arson in June for setting two police cars ablaze during late May protests in Philadelphia, tracking her down by tracing the shirt she was wearing to an Etsy page and to her social media accounts.
Two Brooklyn lawyers, Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, were charged with hurling “Molotov Cocktails” at New York City Police Department cars during late May protests in the city.
“We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity,” Barr said in early June. “We are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence. The Department of Justice is working to restore order in the District of Columbia and around the nation.”
Prosecutors also allege that Steven Carrillo was the gunman in the late May drive-by shooting in California that resulted in the death of Protective Security Officer David Patrick Underwood and in injuries to another security officer. In a gun battle with sheriff’s deputies in early June, Carillo allegedly wrote Boogaloo phrases on a carjacked vehicle. The Boogaloo Movement is a loosely affiliated group of extremists with a loose ideology that is variously far right, anarchist, anti-government, or libertarian, and which focuses on the possibility of a second civil war.
“We have not identified, and this is a work in progress, to identify who is the command and control for some of these groups, but right now, there appears to be with some of these individuals, there’s a loose affiliation with some extremist groups on the left and on the right,” Sherwin told Carlson. “And it appears that the bulk of, if not all of, the individuals that of interested related to some of these very violent acts are self-radicalized or lone wolves that self identify with these groups. That’s not saying that there isn’t an overall command and controlled, but we have not identified that full architecture yet.”
The federal prosecutor said that he didn’t want to “pigeonhole any specific group” and “the FBI has looked at several extremist groups throughout the full spectrum.”
“We are charging cases not of the basis of political affiliation,” Sherwin said. “We’re charging cases on the evidence purely.”