Trump's DOJ Still Pretending Everything Has An 'Interstate' Nexus To Throw Federal Charges At Protester
from the last-ditch-attempt-to-make-people-pay-for-disrespecting-cops dept
The Trump Administration’s desire to turn protests against police brutality into an antifa conspiracy have failed. But not for a lack of trying. Federal officers have been sent to major cities still experiencing unrest, but arrest data and DOJ press releases show there’s very little evidence that coordinated groups of anarchists are behind the violence and property destruction witnessed around the nation. Instead, it appears to be a loose assortment of white dudes who’ve spent too much time talking themselves up on social media.
Why the government of a free nation would direct its efforts at rooting out anti-fascists is beyond me, but efforts continue to be made. To justify their own existence, federal officers handling protests are turning regular riot crime into federal riot crime. Prosecutors are pursuing federal charges when state charges are perfectly capable of handling arrestees — all in hopes of vindictively adding years to their sentences.
There are, of course, First Amendment implications to these federal efforts. This has been demonstrated before, with the feds’ attempts to toss a bunch of inauguration day protesters in the slam for an extended period of time. These were the first protests prosecuted under Trump, and the prosecutions went nowhere even as federal officers attempted to go everywhere. The government issued broad subpoenas and warrants and accused the people it failed to prosecute of “hiding behind the First Amendment.”
This perceived “hiding” behind inalienable rights continues to aggravate Trump’s DOJ. The efforts — which began with the pretty-fucking-fascist act of protesters being spirited away for questioning by unidentified officers driving unmarked vehicles — continue. As The Intercept reports, feds are leveraging their prosecutorial discretion to inflict maximum pain on people who have a beef with their public servants. All it takes is the use of social media to turn state crimes into federal crimes. The same goes for targeting any recipient of federal funds, which includes nearly every local law enforcement agency.
The head of the Prosecution Project (which is tracking government prosecutions of demonstrators) says the federal government is using the existence of the internet to amp up charges against protesters.
“More than mass arrests, we see over 300 cases of selective prosecution by the feds against demonstrators,” [Michael] Loadenthal said. He added that the government has made “extensive use” of “interstate crimes” to transform state charges into federal ones, thus bringing more protest cases into the Justice Department’s remit.
Eighty-six of the 300-plus individual federal cases identified by the Prosecution Project included an “interstate” modification. The scope appears near unbounded for what can fall under federal jurisdiction.
With enough imagination, setting fire to an NYPD cruiser is a federal crime. Why? Because, as prosecutors explained to a nonplussed job, the NYPD’s use of federal funds turns regular arson into “arson involving interstate commerce.” So does merely enforcing laws — including federal ones. Prosecutors have argued in court that the NYPD’s involvement in law enforcement turns regular crimes into federal crimes when they’re targeted by rioters.
In another arson indictment, this time against New Yorker Samantha Shader, federal prosecutors stated that since the “activities of the NYPD and the New York City government in enacting and enforcing laws also affect interstate commerce,” the case fell under the federal government’s purview. Shader, accused of throwing a molotov cocktail at an NYPD vehicle, could face up to 20 years in prison.
In Utah, another federal prosecutor claimed there was a federal nexus to another police car fire, pointing to the fact the vehicle had been manufactured in Canada.
If you think it can’t get any stupider than that, you haven’t met Trump’s DOJ.
In perhaps the most striking example, a Black Lives Matter protester in Jacksonville, Florida, was indicted on federal firearms charges when he was detained by police, and a Patron tequila bottle, allegedly converted into a Molotov cocktail, was found in his bag. The indictment states that since Patron products are exclusively produced in Mexico, “the Patron bottle” — described as a firearm — “would have traveled in and affected interstate or foreign commerce.”
It’s only a matter of time before “sounds Mexican” becomes the lynchpin for a federal prosecution. This case was dismissed before the DOJ’s bad faith argument could be ridiculed by a judge, leaving the agency free to engage in further imaginative extrapolations.
Bill Barr will still be running the DOJ shop at least through the end of this year. Protests are sure to accompany election results and the long-running anti-police brutality protests in several cities aren’t suddenly going to stop, no matter who wins the election. The stupidity will continue through the end of the year at least. And it’s a stupidity that’s going to destroy people’s lives to satisfy a vindictive presidential administration that chose to unconditionally support law enforcement even when it’s clearly in the wrong.