The Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation warned rioters Thursday that Attorney General William Barr has directed federal law enforcement to arrest and charge anyone attempting to incite violence and crime at civil demonstrations.
“Citizens across the Northern District of Florida are exercising their right to protest guaranteed by the Constitution, and we will do everything possible to ensure that they are allowed to do so in a safe, secure environment,” U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe said. “However, we cannot condone — and will not tolerate — agitators who attempt to hijack peaceful rallies in order to incite violence and criminal behavior. Working with our federal, state, and local partners, we will stop them, arrest them, and prosecute them whenever and wherever necessary.”
The DOJ said the FBI has deployed their Joint Terrorism Task Force to weed out the instigators amongst protesters and to coordinate federal resources with state and local partners.
“A duty and privilege of the FBI is to protect citizens as they exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Rachel Rojas, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “While we fully support the rights of peaceful protesters, when people abuse those rights to invoke violence, federal law will be enforced. We will continue to work with our local, state, and federal partners to apprehend and charge violent instigators, and coordinate with the U.S. Attorney’s offices to address any federal violations. We advise individuals taking part in protest activities to remain aware of their immediate surroundings and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.”
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General.
The announcement comes after demonstrations Wednesday remained large, but mostly peaceful.
The calmer protests came on the same day that prosecutors charged three more police officers and filed a new, tougher charge against the officer at the center of the case.