Congress Reviews Police Actions Against Portland and D.C. Protesters
WASHINGTON – Recent police action against protesters fell under criticism during two congressional hearings Tuesday.
Some accusations of wrongdoing were directed at U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who Democratic lawmakers accused of abusing his authority by authorizing excessive force against Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C.
“Shame on you, Mr. Barr,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
He accused the nation’s top law enforcement official of “projecting fear” by sending federal troops to Portland, where protesters have torched some businesses and shut down part of downtown during nightly demonstrations.
Nadler said in his opening statement, “We see the full force of the federal government brought to bear against citizens demonstrating for the advancement of their own civil rights. There is no precedent for the Department of Justice actively seeking out conflict with American citizens, under such flimsy pretext, or for such petty purposes.”
Republicans generally sided with Barr, saying the protests have become too violent to be described as civil rights demonstrations.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio showed a video of protesters engaged in violence against police and property.
The protests continued this week in Portland, particularly around the local and federal courthouses. Monday night a fire set in cardboard signs and plywood burned near the federal courthouse.
Just after midnight Tuesday, someone threw a Molotov cocktail near the courthouse. Federal officers fired tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd.
“In Portland, the courthouse is under attack,” Barr told the House Judiciary Committee.
He mentioned the violence near the courthouse to defend his decision to send hundreds of federal agents to the city to control protesters.
The Black Lives Matter movement was prompted by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25.
Barr described Floyd’s killing as a “horrible” event but said it was not a primary reason for the ongoing violence.
“Largely absent from these scenes of destruction are even superficial attempts by the rioters to connect their actions to George Floyd’s death or any legitimate call for reform,” Barr said.
In a separate congressional hearing, the House Natural Resources Committee heard from law enforcement officials who either criticized or defended police for the way they cleared protesters from Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1.
Police removed them with smoke bombs and pepper balls shortly before President Donald Trump, accompanied by Barr, walked in front of a nearby church for a photo opportunity in which Trump held up a Bible.
Adam DeMarco, a major in the District of Columbia National Guard, described the actions of U.S. Park Police as “unprovoked” and “excessive.”
“Having served in a combat zone, and understanding how to assess threat environments, at no time did I feel threatened by the protesters or assess them to be violent,” DeMarco said in his testimony. “In addition, considering the principles of proportionality of force and the fundamental strategy of graduated responses specific to civil disturbance operations, it was my observation that the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force.”
DeMarco’s observations were sharply contradicted by Acting U.S. Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan.
He said protesters threw “bricks, rocks, caustic liquids, water bottles, lit flares, fireworks” at police. He said 50 officers were injured but acknowledged under questioning from lawmakers that only one was hurt during the June 1 conflict.
“We were met with violent resistance” when officers tried to remove protesters from Lafayette Square, he said.
“Our actions as an agency on June 1 centered around public safety and the safety of my officers,” Monahan said in his testimony.
In The News
WASHINGTON -- The wind drove federal lawmakers Thursday to consider whether offshore turbines should become a major new source of... Read More
WASHINGTON -- The wind drove federal lawmakers Thursday to consider whether offshore turbines should become a major new source of electricity for American consumers. As environmentalists tried to convince a congressional panel that wind energy is a cost-effective investment, detractors said hidden expenses mean it’s not... Read More
WASHINGTON -- An FBI search of the Washington, D.C. home of a Russian oligarch this week is moving the Justice... Read More
WASHINGTON -- An FBI search of the Washington, D.C. home of a Russian oligarch this week is moving the Justice Department into the political minefield that comes from mixing foreign policy with legal enforcement. The FBI conducted what it called "law enforcement activity" at the home... Read More
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was joined by Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas,... Read More
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was joined by Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, on Wednesday in calling for yet another special legislative session to pass more conservative agenda items. The calls for a new special session come after Texas’... Read More
WASHINGTON - With Congressional Democrats reportedly within days of an agreement on a slimmed down reconciliation spending package, a well... Read More
WASHINGTON - With Congressional Democrats reportedly within days of an agreement on a slimmed down reconciliation spending package, a well known independent budget hawk is urging them not to resort to “blatant budget gimmicks” to move the initiative toward passage. Specifically, Maya MacGuineas, president of the... Read More
WASHINGTON – Less than 24 hours after Senate Republicans blocked debate on the Freedom to Vote Act, Majority Leader Chuck... Read More
WASHINGTON – Less than 24 hours after Senate Republicans blocked debate on the Freedom to Vote Act, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he’ll advance another voting rights bill to the floor of the chamber as early as next week. However, he did not say whether... Read More
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — As Democrat Terry McAuliffe worked the crowd at Norfolk State University's homecoming football game, many fans... Read More
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — As Democrat Terry McAuliffe worked the crowd at Norfolk State University's homecoming football game, many fans at the historically Black school were ready with answers before he could even ask for their vote. "Everybody I talked to said: 'Don't worry, I've already... Read More