GA U.S. Attorneys and FBI warn criminal instigators could face federal prosecution

Posted at 11:11 AM, June 1, 2020 and last updated 4:32 PM, July 21, 2023

ATLANTA – Attorney General William P. Barr has directed federal law enforcement actions aimed at apprehending and charging the violent criminal agitators who have taken over peaceful protests and are engaging in violations of federal law.

Protestors demonstrate outside of a burning fast food restaurant, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody Monday, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The U.S. Attorneys from the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Georgia, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are employing the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) to identify criminal organizers and instigators, coordinating federal resources with state and local partners, and seeking federal prosecutions where applicable.

“The Attorney General has made it clear that those who instigate or carryout violence will be arrested and prosecuted,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Americans enjoy the right to peacefully assemble and protest.  However, when it turns violent and destructive, a line has been crossed.  We are employing every federal asset our districts have to assist our state and local partners as they work to maintain order and public safety.”

Attorney General William Barr attends a ceremony at the Department of Justice, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Washington, to announce the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, and its commissioners. (AP Photo/Michael A. McCoy)

“The right to peaceful protest is protected by the First Amendment, but there is no cover for the violent, needless destruction of personal property, and the chaos we have witnessed across the country over the past several days. Let me be clear: anyone who chooses that criminal path will be aggressively prosecuted by our office,” said Charlie Peeler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “I want to thank our federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, and Georgia’s National Guard, who are on the ground protecting our lawful right of expression, as well as our property and safety.”

“Peaceful demonstrations throughout the Southern District in recent weeks have been a model for appropriate exercises of citizens’ constitutional right to express their grief and concerns,” said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “If anyone, whether locals or outside individuals, escalates to unlawful behavior and disrupts our communities, we stand ready to assist local law enforcement with federal resources to safeguard the lives and property of our citizens.”

“The FBI is dedicated to protecting our citizens and upholding the Constitution,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The Constitution gives every citizen the right to protest peacefully, but when a few people abuse the rights of the many peaceful protesters by stoking violence and destroying property, we must enforce the law. Federal prosecutions are a tool we will use to assist our state and local law enforcement partners who are on the front lines trying to maintain order.”

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