U.S. Senators Merkley, Wyden and Colleagues Call for Investigation into Attorney General Barr’s Conduct in Suppressing Peaceful Protests in Lafayette Square
Senators also request investigation into deployment of federal law enforcement in response to protests nationwide
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with 19 of their colleagues, are requesting that Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz open an investigation into the conduct of Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice in directing the use of force against peaceful protestors around Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020.
The senators also called on the Inspector General to probe the deployment of federal law enforcement to suppress protests and intimidate protestors across the country and into the temporary expansion of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s authority to “conduct covert surveillance” on Americans participating in protests.
“We write to request an immediate investigation into Attorney General William Barr’s and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) roles in directing the use of force – including the use of tear gas or a similar gas, rubber bullets, pepper balls, and batons—to suppress peaceful protesters around Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2020,” the senators wrote. “This misuse of force is all the more alarming given that the Attorney General appears to have issued this order to allow President Trump to walk across the street from the White House for a political photo-op in front of St. John’s Church. Notably, Attorney General Barr was not only on the scene less than an hour before the use of force to clear peaceful protesters, but he also participated in President Trump’s photo op, posing for pictures in front of the church.”
The senators continued: “We believe that the concerning actions we have identified warrant immediate investigation by your office, as they raise serious questions about misconduct, abuse of power, and waste by the Justice Department. Moreover, there appears to be no question about your office’s jurisdiction in this matter.
“Therefore, as detailed above, we urge your office to investigate the roles of Attorney General Barr and the Department of Justice in directing the use of force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, against peaceful protesters near Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020; deploying federal agents to suppress protests and intimidate peaceful protesters; and expanding the authority of DEA to conduct covert surveillance of protesters.”
Senators Merkley and Wyden were joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Mark Warner (D-VA).