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‘Tyrannical and un-American’: ACLU rebukes Bill Barr

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Bill Barr and Donald Trump (AFP)

Attorney General William Barr drew stinging rebuke from legal experts and civil liberties advocates including the ACLU Wednesday after he told federal prosecutors to more aggressively charge some protesters with crimes—including sedition, under certain circumstances.

The Wall Street Journal reports Barr’s directive came during a conference call last week in which the attorney general warned that protests—which have been overwhelmingly peaceful and focused on racial justice—could increase as Election Day approaches.

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Two people familiar with the call told the Journal that Barr urged prosecutors to seek federal charges wherever possible—including a rarely-used sedition law meant to punish people who conspire to overthrow the U.S. government.

However, legal experts noted that in order to successfully charge someone with sedition, prosecutors must prove that they were part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government or attack government officials, or that they posed an imminent threat to the nation.

“Treating protest as a form of sedition won’t stand up in court, but that is clearly not the point here,” Somil Trivedi, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, said in an email to Common Dreams. “This is a tyrannical and un-American attempt to suppress demands for racial justice and an end to police violence. Independent and ethical prosecutors should reject this administration’s authoritarian impulses.”

Some observers warned that aggressively prosecuting protesters could have a chilling effect on constitutionally-protected free speech, assembly, and expression.

Others wondered whether sedition charges would apply to violent right-wing protesters who support Trump.

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Both Barr and President Donald Trump have (often falsely) blamed left-wing and anarchist protesters, including members of the Black Lives Matter movement and people who loosely identify under the Antifa umbrella, for most of the violence during the ongoing protests that began earlier this year after police and white supremacist killings of Black and Latinx people including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

However, a study by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), which analyzed more than 7,750 Black Lives Matter demonstrations in all 50 states and Washington D.C. that occurred between May 26 and August 22, found that fully 93% of the protests were peaceful.

Nevertheless, the president has called the Black Lives Matter movement—the latest iteration of the centuries-old Black struggle for equality and justice—”a symbol of hate.”

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Trump has made “law and order”—replete with thinly-veiled racist appeals to white voters—a pillar of his re-election bid. He has habitually downplayed right-wing violence, even as his own Department of Homeland Security warned earlier this month that white supremacist pose the greatest domestic terrorist threat, and even as white supremacists keep attacking and killing people.

In 2017 the president infamously called neo-Nazis and other white nationalists who attended the Charlottesville, Virginia protest where anti-racist protester Heather Heyer was murdered “very fine people.”

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Despite the growing white supremacist threat, Trump revoked funding for the federal program tasked with countering violent extremism, while focusing his ire on the overwhelmingly peaceful Black Lives Matter movement. The president and some of his prominent supporters have repeatedly conflated the movement for Black lives with what the FBI for a while called “Black identity extremists.”


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Trump’s court nominee publicly supported anti-abortion extremist group: Report

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President Donald Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court publicly supported an extremist group that calls for the prosecution of physicians who provide abortions.

Amy Coney Barrett was among hundreds of people who signed a full-page newspaper advertisement in 2006 sponsored by St. Joseph County Right to Life in the South Bend Tribune, reported The Guardian.

“We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death," the letter stated, referring to the region in southwestern Michigan and northeastern Indiana. "Please continue to pray to end abortion.”

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2020 Election

‘Women didn’t like that’: Fox News host grills GOP chairwoman after Trump interrupts ‘145 times’ at debate

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Fox News host Sandra Smith pressed Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel on Thursday over the idea that President Donald Trump could be punished with a "mute button" after he repeatedly interrupted Democratic candidate Joe Biden at Tuesday's presidential debate.

During an interview on Fox News, Smith noted that the Commission on Presidential Debates is considering changing the rules due to the constant interruptions at the first debate between Biden and Trump.

"At any point when you were watching the debate, did you wish that perhaps President Trump didn't jump in there as much as he did?" Smith wondered.

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‘Abuse towards women’ is a ‘feature’ of being in Trump’s inner circle: columnist

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Candice Parscale, the wife of former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, alleged over the weekend that he had physically abused her shortly before he barricaded himself in a room armed with multiple guns and threatened to hurt himself.

Although Parscale has since walked back the allegations of abuse, she is far from the only woman who has in the past alleged abuse by a member of President Donald Trump's inner circle.

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