An effort to federalize prosecution of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors who took to the streets in the aftermath of George Floyd’s May 2020 killing was “a deliberate and cynical” attempt “to target and discourage” them.
That is the key takeaway from a new report issued on August 18, 2021, by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility Clinic (CLEAR) at the City University of New York (CUNY) law school.
As protests spread across the country after Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police, then-President Donald J. Trump (R) called on governors to deploy their National Guard units and “dominate” the crowds. Then-Attorney General William P. Barr activated “Operation Legend” to deputize and reassign federal agents for crowd control.
In the cities where "Operation Legend" was activated—Kansas City, Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis, and Minneapolis—federal agents faced off against BLM protestors night after night when emergency curfews went into effect. After the operation concluded in December 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had netted 6,000 arrests resulting in 1,500 charges for federal offenses.
The new report analyzed 326 of those charges from August 26 to October 31, 2020, detailing how the vast majority—92.5 percent—could have been dealt with at the state level, where most—88 percent—would have carried less severe consequences. In over 22 percent of the cases, the federal charges carry mandatory minimum sentences.
But with the "vast majority” of these charges brought “for non-violent offenses”—or “offenses that were potentially hazardous but were restricted to property destruction, not violence against people”—the result has been that “hundreds of organizers and activists fac(e) years in federal prison with no chance of parole,” the report concludes.
It calls for DOJ to grant amnesty to those charged and abolish FBI joint task forces formed with local law enforcement agencies.
See: “Struggle For Power: The Ongoing Persecution of Black Movement by the U.S Government,” co-authored by CUNY School of Law’s Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility Clinic and the Movement for Black Lives (August 2021).
Sources: Al Día News
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