Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that foreign interests and "extremist agitators" affiliated with groups like Antifa have sought to widen divisions in U.S. society following the death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer.
Barr, speaking at a news conference, said federal agents have made 51 arrests so far for charges involving violent activity surrounding protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis last month.
Barr said most protesters were peaceful demonstrators, but the Justice Department has 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.
He said the Justice Department is receiving intelligence daily on efforts to turn protests violent and is deploying resources to get ahead of those threats.
Barr vowed that justice will be served in the case.
Barr also said Floyd’s case highlighted why many people — particularly African-Americans — lack confidence in the U.S. justice system.
“Our free society depends on the rule of law,” Barr said at a news conference in Washington on Thursday. “When the rule of law breaks down the promise of America does also.”
Barr didn’t immediately address questions about his role in the clearing of peaceful protesters from a plaza across the street from the White House on Monday, a move that came ahead of President Donald Trump’s walk to a church that has been widely criticized as a “photo op.”
This report contains material from Reuters and Bloomberg News.
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