DOJ watchdog to probe alleged use of force by law enforcement against protesters

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The internal watchdog at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday announced an investigation into the alleged use of force by federal law enforcement personnel against protesters in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office will coordinate with his counterpart at the Department of Homeland Security to examine use of force allegations involving DOJ law enforcement personnel.

Horowitz said in a statement that his office “is initiating a review to examine the DOJ’s and its law enforcement components’ roles and responsibilities in responding to protest activity and civil unrest in Washington, DC, and in Portland, Oregon over the prior two months.”

The D.C.-focused probe will be in coordination with the Interior Department’s inspector general, who has recently announced a review of the events that unfolded at Lafayette Square in early June. If circumstances warrant, Horowitz said, the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.

Horowitz said he is initiating the probe after receiving requests from members of Congress, members of the public and a referral from a U.S. attorney in Oregon.

The review will include looking at how DOJ law enforcement was trained and instructed to deal with demonstrators, whether they complied with rules of engagement and “applicable identification requirements,” as well as the use of “lethal munitions, chemical agents, and other uses of force.”

President Trump deployed federal law enforcement to Portland earlier this month to protect federal property after weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. 

The crackdown on the demonstrators have come under scrutiny in recent days as protesters have reportedly been detained by unidentified officers. Local and state officials in have called for the federal law enforcement to leave the city. 

On Wednesday, President Trump intensified the fight with local officials, saying he plans to send federal law enforcement to Chicago and other U.S. cities to combat violence. The president said he had “no choice but to get involved.”

“No mother should ever have to cradle her dead child in her arms simply because politicians refused to do what is necessary to secure their neighborhood and to secure their city,” he said.

Trump has consistently responded to the Floyd protests with a call for a law-and-order response.

When protests broke out in front of the White House last month, law enforcement cleared the demonstrators from Lafayette Square with tear gas, flash bang grenades and rubber bullets, ahead of the city’s curfew. 

Minutes later, the president walked on foot to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church, which protesters had damaged the night before, to pose for photos with a Bible.

The June 1 Lafayette Square clearing prompted widespread backlash, including from several lawmakers.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later said officials had “no regrets” on how the clearing was handled, and the president said he thought the removal was “handled very well.”

Updated at 3:44 p.m.

Tags demonstrations Donald Trump Inspector General Oregon Portland Protests Washington DC
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