Feds deliberately targeted Black Lives Matter protesters

A report released Wednesday by racial justice organization The Movement for Black Lives found that the Justice Department (DOJ) under former President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE intentionally targeted Black Lives Matter protesters with prosecutions in order to disrupt the movement amid last summer’s wave of civil unrest. 

The report, which was first shared with The Associated Press, was conducted in partnership with the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility Clinic at the City University of New York School of Law. 

Based on analysis of 326 criminal cases filed by federal prosecutors in connection with nationwide protests from May 31 to Oct. 25 of last year, the groups found that “much of the drive to use federal charges against protesters stemmed from top-down directives” from Trump and former Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMichael Cohen officially released from prison sentence Incoming NAACP Legal Defense Fund president sees progress against 'revitalized mission to advance white supremacy' Fox's Bartiromo called Bill Barr 'screaming' about election fraud: book MORE

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“These directives, meant to disrupt the movement, were the primary reason for the unprecedented federalization of protest-related prosecutions seen in 2020,” the report said. 

The organizations also noted that the DOJ in these directives, as well as in statements about the protests, “painted an image of protesters as ‘violent radicals,’ ” and “the government justified the expanded use of its authority and deployment of federal enforcement due to what it claimed was local and state leaders’ ‘abdication of their law enforcement responsibilities in deference to this violent assault.’ ”

Among other key findings was that the government “exploited the expansive federal criminal code in order to assert federal jurisdiction in cases that bore no federal interest,” noting that in nearly 93 percent of the criminal cases, there were similar state-level charges that could have been brought against defendants. 

Of these cases where state crimes could have instead been filed, 88 percent of the federal charges had more severe potential punishments than they would have at the state level, according to the report. 

The Movement for Black Lives said that “the empirical data and findings in this report largely corroborate what Black organizers have long known intellectually, intuitively, and from lived experience about the federal government’s disparate policing and prosecution of racial justice protests and related activity.” 

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The Hill has reached out to the DOJ and representatives for Trump for comment on the report. 

Trump throughout last year’s civil unrest repeatedly criticized violence by some racial justice protesters who took to the streets in cities across the country in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last May.

The former president had previously gained widespread scrutiny and pushback over his decision to send federal agents to help quell protests in cities such as Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C.