WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement has evidence that extremist groups such as Antifa are hijacking nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday.
Barr said he understood most protesters were peaceful demonstrators but that his Justice Department had since found evidence that “extremist agitators” were hijacking protests to “pursue their own separate and violent agenda.”
“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 at a press conference.
President Trump last week said he would designate Antifa, a shadowy, far-left radical group, as a terrorist organization and blamed the group for inciting looting and burning businesses as protests over Floyd’s death at the hands of Minnesota police have engulfed the nation in violence, looting and civl unrest.
The nation’s top law enforcement official said the feds had made 51 arrests in connection with violent rioting and called on state and local leaders to work with the National Guard.
Barr did not address questions over his leadership including the decision to clear protesters outside the White House on Monday evening, which the White House said came at his direction.
FBI director Christopher Wray also singled out Antifa and other agitators who he said “set out to sow discord and upheaval, rather than join in the righteous pursuit of equality and justice.”
“We’ve directed our 200 joint terrorism task forces around the country to assist law enforcement with apprehending and charging violent agitators who are hijacking peaceful protests on a national level,” he said.
Wray said the FBI had also been “working hard to identify and prevent hate crimes and to investigate abuses of power and authority.”