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AG Barr Calls Black Lives Matter Protests in Portland ‘an Assault’ on U.S. Government in Testy Hearing

AG Barr Calls Black Lives Matter Protests in Portland ‘an Assault’ on U.S. Government in Testy HearingIn his first appearance ever before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr declined to say that political concerns weren’t animating the Trump administration’s use of federal troops to crack down on Black Lives Matter demonstrators.Asked by Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) if he’d discussed the politics of the crackdown with Trump or anyone in his inner circle, Barr didn’t specifically mention the Department of Justice operations but confirmed that the election “comes up” in his conversations with the president. “I’m a member of the Cabinet,” said Barr, “and there’s an election going on.”Pressed further by Nadler on the topic, Barr demurred: “I’m not going to get into my discussions with the president.” Bully Boy Bill Barr is America’s Ultimate Chaos AgentAs well, Barr indicated he views protesters in Portland, Oregon, not as demonstrators demanding Black liberation or defending themselves from an unwanted federal intrusion but as insurrectionists.“What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest,” Barr said in his highly anticipated testimony. “It is, by any objective measure, an assault on the government of the United States.”Later, in response to GOP questioning, Barr thundered “is that OK?” in outlining demonstrators’ alleged offenses against federal officers. “I reject the idea that the Department has flooded anywhere and attempted to suppress demonstrators… We are at the courthouse defending the courthouse, we’re not out there looking for trouble.” Barr’s rhetoric represented the latest escalation by the Trump administration in demonizing the protests, which are part of what has become the largest sustained movement in American history. A Monday statement from the U.S. Marshals, a component of the Justice Department, called elements within the protesters “violent extremists,” a term typically used by the U.S. government to describe domestic terrorists, though a Marshals spokesperson said the reference was unintentional. “In the wake of George Floyd’s death, violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims,” Barr contended. Democrats fumed through the hearing on what they saw as Barr’s hypocrisy on that count. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) asked Barr whether he was aware of the pro-Trump protests in Michigan targeting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which featured heavily armed demonstrators. Barr said no. “You are aware of certain kinds of protesters, but in Michigan when protesters carried guns and Confederate flags and called for the governor of Michigan to be shot and lynched, somehow you are not aware of that, somehow you didn’t know about it, so you didn’t send federal agents in to do to the president’s supporters what you did to the president’s protesters,” charged Jayapal. The testimony from Barr, which has been more than a year in the making, has been hotly anticipated by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill as an opportunity to litigate a number of his actions as Trump’s attorney general. Over the past year, Barr has overseen a reduction in the desired sentence and then the commutation of Trump ally Roger Stone’s conviction; the withdrawal of the criminal case against another Trump ally, Michael Flynn; the tear-gassing of Black Lives Matter protesters in D.C.’s Lafayette Park; an effort to oust the New York federal attorney handling sensitive investigations into Trumpworld; the transference of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort from prison to home confinement; and the deployment of armed, militarized federal agents against protesters in Portland over the objections of local and state elected officials. The growing portfolio of outrages that Barr has assembled has been overwhelming for House Democrats, some of whom have embraced the idea that the only remaining avenue for holding the attorney general—who has already been held in contempt of Congress—to account is to impeach him. But getting Barr on the House Judiciary witness stand, which was originally set for March and then later postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, is widely seen as the first step in whatever House Democrats decide to do next.In his opening statement, Nadler previewed the crux of Democrats’ case by arguing that Barr has been Trump’s fixer. “Your tenure,” Nadler told Barr, “is marked by a persistent war against the department’s professional core in an apparent effort to secure favors for the president.”Barr shot back that he was trying “to reestablish the rule of law.”Trump Administration Plots Crackdown by Feds in Cities NationwideThe attorney general’s handling of nationwide protests proved the focus of the hearing from the beginning. Federal agents, including the Marshals and others from the Department of Homeland Security, cited vandalism against the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland as a justification for their persistent presence. Barr, in his opening statement, called such vandalism the work of “hundreds of rioters.” Yet the federal response has generated the majority of the violence at the protests, which has included shooting protesters in the head with rubber bullets; breaking the hand of an unarmed Navy veteran; frequent pepper-spray dousings and tear-gassings; and street arrests without probable cause by minimally identified federal agents driving unmarked vans. Barr equivocated on whether federal agents can arrest protesters without probable cause, saying they could “not strictly” arrest someone because they were proximate to someone they believed was violent. But he demurred about whether such a thing represented an actual arrest, saying “that would require an intensive review” into each circumstance. It remains unknown exactly how many people in Portland have been arrested by federal agents during the July deployments. At one point, late in the hearing, Barr called pepper spray a “very important nonlethal tool” against “rioters” and added, “When people resist law enforcement, they’re not peaceful.”“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,” said Nadler. He said Barr “aided and abetted the worst failings of the president.”Elected officials, from Oregon’s governor to both its U.S. senators to the Portland mayor, have denounced the federal presence as a provocative escalation of violence. Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf have vowed to remain until the protests are quelled. ‘Shaking in Their Boots’: Trump Wanted a Portland-Style Offensive in ChicagoLast week, Barr justified a coming “surge” in federal law enforcement to Chicago, Albuquerque, and other cities—expected to last through the November election—by citing the Black Lives Matter protests as a source of public disrespect toward police. Black Lives Matter activists and their allies in Chicago are seeking an injunction against the use of Portland-style federal violence. After acknowledging “it is understandable” for Black Americans to distrust police, Barr said it was “an oversimplification” to view “some deep-seated racism generally infecting our police departments.” Defunding police is “grossly irresponsible,” he said, portraying crime as a “massively greater” threat to Black lives than police. Nadler countercharged: “At your direction, Department officials have downplayed the effects of systemic racism and abandoned the victims of police brutality; refused to hold abusive police departments accountable for their actions; and expressed open hostility to the Black Lives Matter movement.”But later in the hearing, Democrats also pressed Barr over his handling of criminal prosecutions stemming from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) repeatedly asked Barr why Stone appeared to get special exceptions for leniency based on his age and conduct. “Can you think of any other cases where the defendant threatened to kill a witness, threatened a judge… where the DOJ claimed those were mere technicalities?” asked Deutch. “Can you think of even one?” Barr raised his voice in response, asserting the judge agreed with his analysis, though the witness in question, Randy Credico, did say he felt threatened by Stone. Democrats also tried to nail down definitive answers from Barr on a number of other subjects, such as whether he believed increased voting-by-mail increased the risk of voter fraud as Trump has alleged. Barr said it did. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) also raised concerns Trump would move the date of the election or even reject the results, given Trump’s arguments about absentee voting and the possibility that final results won’t be known for some time after Election Day. Barr tersely responded, “if the results are clear, I would leave office.” GOP Senators Will Say This Much: Trump Photo Op Wasn’t a Good LookBarr also seemed to dismiss the convictions and guilty pleas reached by Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, saying that the Justice Department would not prosecute “some esoteric, made-up crime, but [rather] a meat-and-potatoes crime.”On Tuesday, Barr—who wrote in his prepared opening statement that he is not “the President’s factotum”—received a warm reception from Republicans, for whom the attorney general has become a hero. The top House Judiciary Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), said last month the attorney general was doing “the Lord’s work.” “Spying. That’s why they’re after you, Mr. Attorney General,” Jordan said on Tuesday, before proceeding to portray the Black Lives Matter protests as violent through an extensive video that showed no police-induced violence.   A day before Barr’s hearing, a D.C. National Guard officer present at the Lafayette Park protest on June 1 told a different House committee that “the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force.” Barr has denied accounts placing him in command responsibility for suppressing the protest. But the officer, West Point graduate and Iraq veteran Adam DeMarco, recounted Barr conferring with the Park Police shortly before they advanced to clear protesters from the square for Trump’s photo op. “From my observation, those demonstrators—our fellow American citizens—were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights,” DeMarco told the House natural-resources committee on Monday. “Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”Barr, questioned by Jayapal, dismissed his comments. “I don’t remember DeMarco as being involved in any decision-making,” he said, implying DeMarco was not credible since he “ran as a Democratic candidate in Maryland.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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The St. Louis couple that aimed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters received dozens of offers to replace a firearm that was seized by police, their attorney says

The St. Louis couple that aimed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters received dozens of offers to replace a firearm that was seized by police, their attorney saysPolice seized Mark and Patricia McCloskey's rifle in a search warrant. Since then, the couple has received over 50 offers to replace it, their lawyer said.



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Texas Governor Is ‘Putting Lives at Risk,’ Local Officials Say

Texas Governor Is ‘Putting Lives at Risk,’ Local Officials SayHarris County Judge Lina Hidalgo believes she knows what her county needs to fight back against COVID-19. But because of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, she says she isn’t able to follow through. “I'm at the mercy of what powers he positively gives us,” Hidalgo told The Daily Beast. “As opposed to being able to use my own tools.” As Texas faces a resurgent coronavirus and some officials have emphasized concerns about hospitals in the state becoming potentially overrun or overwhelmed, Hidalgo can find plenty of reasons to worry. Hospitalizations started to increase in late May, she says, and haven't come down since. And recommending that people should stay home just isn’t enough. “We need a stay at home order in Harris County,” she said of her area that includes Houston. “And we need to be able to do that until the curve comes down on the other side.” Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, is resisting calls to give local authorities more control to fight the coronavirus themselves after COVID-19 cases spiked in the state recently. Texas reported more than 10,000 new cases Tuesday, marking a new one day record for the state according to state health department data. Both Hidalgo and Steve Adler, the Democratic mayor of Austin, Texas made their case on national political shows Sunday that they wanted more local control. But at the moment, they’re limited in what they can do locally and say they would need the governor’s help to make aggressive moves, like a stay at home order.  In interviews with The Daily Beast this week, the leaders of both areas feared for what harm could come to their communities without being given the ability to have more local control by the state’s Republican governor. “He's putting at risk the ability for economies to stay open and he's putting lives at risk,” said Adler.  “I feel like we're responding with one hand tied behind our back,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, also a Democrat. “We know what works. We ought to do that, and that's what the community deserves. I think anything short of a stay home order is a gamble, and we don't have time for that.” Texas has become a major hotspot for the coronavirus in recent weeks, with the governor himself halting the state’s reopening push over the mounting cases. Total current hospitalizations have risen sharply in the state, according to The Texas Tribune, with new cases also spiking according to the news site. But in an interview Monday night with local television station KFDM News at 6, Abbott responded to the push by instead chiding local officials, saying that the county judges or mayors that are looking to take more action have “absolutely refused to enforce the current executive orders that are already in place. What they need to show is action, not absenteeism.”  “They need to show up, enforce the law as it is, before they are given any further authority,” Abbott said in the interview. “They ask for more and more, but they do absolutely nothing." Texas Gov. Moves to Stop COVID-19 but It’s Already Out of ControlAbbott’s approach was quickly mocked by Beto O’Rourke, a former presidential candidate and Texas congressman, on Twitter. He tweeted late Monday night: “Abbott opens Texas too soon, issues mask order too late, denies local leaders authority to contain the virus — causing uncontrolled covid spread, many hospitalized & soon dead because of his negligence — and then blames local officials? Pathetic. Resign.” Locally, the mayor of Austin said Abbott was wrong to not give him and other cities local control and is still pushing to have that ability. “It's the best way for the state to be able to ultimately tamp down this virus and to figure out what is the right balance in each community between keeping the economy open in a sustainable way and saving lives,” Adler said. “…The governor's suggestion that he's not going to do it for those reasons because he thinks that cities and counties are not enforcing the existing rules is just not right.” And while Adler said Tuesday he would not automatically make a stay at home order if he was given the power to do so today, he still wants to the right be able to use that tool. Elsewhere in the state, Harris County, which includes Houston, is now at a severe COVID-19 threat level according to the county’s coronavirus website. And on Sunday, the mayor of Houston appeared on Face the Nation warning that  “if we don't get our hands around this virus quickly in about two weeks our hospital system could be in serious, serious trouble.”Abbott’s resistance comes as the public health situation in Texas has taken a terrifying turn in recent weeks. Late last month, Abbott paused the state’s reopening push, citing rises in hospitalizations from COVID-19 and new cases. Soon after, he rolled back even further by imposing an executive order for bars to close down. And before the fourth of July weekend, the governor signed an executive order that put in place a statewide mask requirement for public locations that applies to “counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. Battles between local officials wanting to be more aggressive and statewide officials emphasizing a more lax approach have become common during the pandemic. In late March, the governor of Mississippi quickly drew the ire of local officials over a confusing executive order that they said hampered their local power. A similar complaint later came from the Democratic mayor of Savannah, Georgia who said in May that the state’s Republican governor had superseded his ability at the local level, creating a situation that meant his city essentially “could do absolutely nothing.” That same month, as states moved into reopening, the attorney general of Texas sent letters to the mayors of Austin, San Antonio and a trio of counties chiding them over specific measures and the raising the potential of a legal battle. The issues targeted included local mask requirements, which went farther than what the state would allow, and shelter-in-place orders. In Dallas County, another area of the state hit hard by the virus, Judge Clay Jenkins is not calling for a local stay at home order this week. But in a letter to Abbott Sunday, he urged for the governor to close locations like gyms and inside restaurant dining after warning the GOP leader that “multiple hospital systems are reporting the largest volumes of COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic.” After calling for Abbott to implement a variety of requirements across the state, or at least regionally,  Jenkins implored the governor to roll back an earlier order “restricting local control” so that his county could make the moves to try and  “slow the spread of the rampant and devastating COVID-19 virus.” “Governor Abbott has stripped local officials of their authority that's worked well in past emergencies and made Texas a leader until he took over in this emergency,” Jenkins, a Democrat, told The Daily Beast. “So it hasn't worked out well at all.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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'We're not going anywhere': Seattle's Chop zone dismantled but cause lives on

'We're not going anywhere': Seattle's Chop zone dismantled but cause lives onThe special police-free zone set up by protesters has now been cleared, but activists say they won’t stop the fight for justiceThe occupied protest zone near downtown Seattle known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or “Chop”, effectively came to a swift end early on Wednesday morning when officers largely cleared the area of people and encampments, despite some protests lingering overnight into Thursday.Now activists say the relationships built and lessons learned over the last three weeks in the self-proclaimed police-free zone have already had a lasting impact that will live on past the physical presence of Chop.“We won, we’re winning, we made history,” said Rick Hearns, who had become head of security at Chop. “Look what we did here. The world saw it.”But the protest area also became the location of a series of night-time shootings, which left a 16-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man dead and several others seriously injured.In a series of tweets on Wednesday afternoon, Seattle’s mayor, Jenny Durkan, highlighted the violence in the zone, saying “the recent public safety threats have been well documented” and “this violence demanded action”.She said: “Our conversations over the weekend made it clear that many individuals would not leave, and that we couldn’t address these critical public safety concerns until they did.”The autonomous zone emerged organically following a series of dangerous clashes between protesters and law enforcement during marches against police brutality sparked by the killing of George Floyd, and African American, by a white police officer, in Minneapolis in May.Officers in Seattle abandoned their east precinct building as demonstrations closed in, after which protesters camped out around it, with the intention of protecting the building from possible destruction that might be blamed on them.In the days that followed, hundreds more joined, and suddenly several blocks of the city’s streets were teeming with people of different ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, focused on calling for the defunding the city’s police department – echoing such protest cries emerging coast to coast, which can mean diverting money budgeted for police departments to social and education services, or even dismantling an entire department and restructuring the law enforcement system.And they wanted an end to police brutality against black people, explained Tarika Powell, an organizer with Seattle Black Collective Voice.> We’re going to organize sit-ins, we’re going to spam the city officials, we’re going to show up> > Jessie Livingston“It was a space where people came to learn. We screened documentaries, we put on people’s assemblies every day where people had the opportunity to speak and share their feelings and ideas … we put on educational events every single day,” she told the Guardian.“We had a space called the conversation cafe where people could come to learn about racism and to talk about it in ways they don’t get to do in their daily lives.”It spurred not only important conversations and learning, but also lasting bonds, which have since resulted in the organizing of anti-racist protests and the creation of social justice groups.The Seattle Black Collective Voice, for example, was formed after a group of organizers and protesters met in the Chop, explained Powell.Today, there are about 40 people involved with the collective, and they hold weekly educational events, and organize neighborhood cleanups and mental health outreach for people in the African American community.“We would have not been able to come together and engage in the work that we’re doing if it had not been for Chop,” she said.Pay the Fee Tiny Library was launched in a tent at the Chop, and now organizers have set up the library, which includes black, indigenous and people of color and LGBTQ literature, around the city and held events. And a garden started in the Cal Anderson Park is now expected to become a permanent addition to the neighborhood.Protesters have repeatedly stressed that the shootings and violence was not directly connected with Chop, and may have happened anyway . But it resulted in a dramatic decline in occupiers, it concerned local businesses and residents, and amplified officials calling on occupants to disperse.By the time police cleared Chop on Wednesday, following Mayor Durkan’s emergency executive order, the area had largely been reduced to a small number of activists and many homeless people, explained Powell.The truth is they “went in and did a violent sweep on homeless people, throwing away their tents and belongings”, she said.“Those homeless people had come into Chop to be safe from the sweeps. That is the vast majority of people that were in that space since the shooting started.”Officers reported on Twitter that they arrested 31 people during the sweep.Some activists have argued that the police precinct was needed as a bargaining chip in order to get their three main demands met, which involve defunding the police, using that money to invest in community health and services, and dropping criminal charges against protesters. Others say another occupation in the city could be a future possibility.Jessie Livingston, 36, a protester who has been camped at Chop almost every day since it was founded, said she didn’t know exactly the form the movement might take, but said: “We’re going to organize sit-ins, we’re going to spam the city officials, we’re going to show up to city council meetings, we’re going to do everything we know how to do.”She added: “We’re not going anywhere.”



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Catholic priest suspended from church for calling Black Lives Matter protesters ‘maggots and parasites’

Catholic priest suspended from church for calling Black Lives Matter protesters ‘maggots and parasites’A Catholic priest in Indiana has been suspended from his public ministry, after he called Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters “maggots and parasites".Reverend Theodore Rothrock, assigned to St Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel, Indiana, was suspended on Wednesday, after he disparaged BLM protesters in a bulletin published on Sunday, according to Huffpost.



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Harvard Grad Says She Was Fired from Deloitte Job for Threatening ‘All Lives Matter’ Supporters

Harvard Grad Says She Was Fired from Deloitte Job for Threatening ‘All Lives Matter’ SupportersA recent Harvard graduate who threatened to “stab” anyone who told her “all lives matter” has been fired from her job, she announced in a tearful video.Claira Janover, who said in a viral but since-deleted TikTok post that she would “stab” those with “the nerve” to say “all lives matter,” posted several tearful videos explaining that her new employer, Deloitte, had fired her.“I know this is what Trump supporters wanted because standing up for Black Lives Matter put me in a place online to be seen by millions of people,” Janover explained. “The job that I worked really hard to get and meant a lot to me just called me and fired me because of everything.”In a second video, Janover claimed that “Trump supporters took my job away from me.”“I have gotten death threats, rape threats, violent threats and it's okay — but now it's just like my future is entirely compromised because Trump supporters have decided to come for my life,” she stated. “I'm too strong for you. I am too strong for any of you, ‘all lives matter’ racist Trump supporters. It sucks but it doesn't suck as much as systemic racism.”Janover also criticized Deloitte, calling out the company for “cowardice.” The firm has not publicly commented on the situation.In the video that led to her firing, Janover warned “all lives matter” supporter that she would stab them. “While you’re struggling and bleeding out, I’ma show you my paper cut and say, ‘My cut matters too,'” she stated. After the video was picked up and circulated on Twitter, Janover posted a message on the video stating that “For legal reasons this is a joke.” She also explained in subsequent videos that her threat was “clearly” an “analogous joke.”“Apparently I’m threatening the lives of people — unlike cops, obviously,” she added.“Anyway, so If I get an email from the Department of Homeland Security or I get kicked out of Harvard or I get arrested or whatever — or I get murdered, according to the many death threats that I’m receiving right now — know that I appreciate you guys standing up for me,” she said.



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'Not to me, they don't': Philadelphia court supervisor fired for tearing down Black Lives Matter signs on video

'Not to me, they don't': Philadelphia court supervisor fired for tearing down Black Lives Matter signs on videoA supervisor with Philadelphia's Family Court was fired after a video circulated online showing him tearing down Black Lives Matter signs and telling bystanders that black lives don't matter to him.The video shows Michael Henkel marching along a sidewalk tearing Black Lives Matter signs from fences and walls. When a bystander yells "black lives matter" at him, Mr Henkel replies "not to me, they don't."



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