Early this summer, as the federal government began unleashing its aggressive response to the racial justice demonstrations sweeping the country in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people, Attorney General William Barr claimed that “outside radicals and agitators” had hijacked protests. However, the Department of Justice recently told American Oversight that it found “no responsive records” to a public records request about the influence of such “far left extremists”.
American Oversight submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in August, asking for final assessments and similar guidance about outside entities’ influence on the racial justice protests.
Barr had alleged outsider involvement in the protests early on.
“Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda,” the attorney general said on May 30. “In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchistic and far left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence.”
President Donald Trump seemed to echo Barr’s claims in a Jun. 1 speech from the White House Rose Garden, saying that the nation had “been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa and others.”
Yet, the Department of Justice came up blank when required to provide materials that backed up those serious allegations. Of course, the agency’s response to American Oversight’s FOIA request doesn’t necessarily mean no related records exist at all. For example, some may not be subject to FOIA.
However, the apparent lack of information in the public record supporting claims from Barr and Trump about left-wing extremists should raise further questions about the veracity of those claims, as well as about the government’s authoritarian response to peaceful demonstrations.
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