West Virginia U.S. Attorneys and FBI warn those who are inciting violence and crime will face federal charges
WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – 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. The U.S. Attorneys from the Northern and Southern Districts of West Virginia, 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 death of George Floyd understandably caused outrage and protests. Our democracy was built upon the exercise of free speech. I am proud of our West Virginia citizens who chose to congregate in peaceful demonstrations. Please allow those peaceful protests and constructive dialogue be an example to the rest of the nation. Some have chosen to act with violence and endanger their fellow citizens and law enforcement. Such criminal conduct does nothing to further the issues surrounding the death of George Floyd and will not be tolerated by law enforcement or the citizens of our state. We will continue to monitor the situation, but are prepared to act immediately to enforce the rule of law,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Powell, Northern District of West Virginia.
“Let me be clear- this is a nation grounded in the right to protest. This nation is also grounded in the rule of law,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “The right to protest is not a right to loot, riot, commit property destruction or to engage in or incite violence. It is wholly unacceptable and it defies those who protest peacefully. Peaceful protest can be powerful. Violence, looting and criminal behavior undermines the cause and, if it happens in West Virginia, we will enforce the rule of law.”
"The FBI is dedicated to upholding the Constitution, including protecting all citizens' rights to peacefully protest," said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Christman. "The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights, but when people abuse those rights to invoke violence, federal law will be enforced. We have worked closely with our local and state partners throughout the events of the past few days. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) will continue to coordinate with the U.S. Attorney's offices to address any federal violations."
Attorney General Barr’s statement is available here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-william-p-barrs-statement-riots-and-domestic-terrorism.
For more information on the FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force, go to https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/terrorism/joint-terrorism-task-forces.