Attorney General William P. Barr said in a letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released late Tuesday that the recent presence of federal law enforcement and National Guard members in the nation’s capital was necessary because of nearly unprecedented rioting last weekend.
Mr. Barr said that starting on Friday, May 29, the District experienced “days of violent rioting and looting” that caused widespread damage, injured dozens of officers and threatened federal operations around the White House complex.
He said the violence culminated on May 31 — “reportedly the most violent day of civil unrest in the District in 30 years” — when rioters threw projectiles at federal law enforcement, burned down a structure in Lafayette Park near the White House and caused a fire in the basement of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“The television footage of these events — viewed by people across the Nation and around the world — conveyed the impression that the United States was on the brink of losing control of its capital city,” Mr. Barr wrote.
The protests were in response to the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minnesota.
Mr. Barr said the president requested that they expand the resources available to operate in the District, including by working with the D.C. National Guard and with state officials to make their National Guard personnel available, as a “temporary response to an escalating security crisis.”
He said all of the federal and National Guard personnel operating in the District have been working under the confines of federal and D.C law.
Ms. Bowser had written to President Trump on Thursday requesting that he withdraw “all extraordinary law enforcement and military presence from Washington, DC.”
She had also expressed concern that “unidentified” federal personnel were patrolling the streets of the city.
Mr. Barr said they had deployed personnel from various arms of the Justice Department and that the U.S. Marshals Service had deputized officers from the Department of Homeland Security and from the Bureau of Prisons to assist in enforcing federal law.
He also said the USMS had deputized some National Guard personnel to enforce federal law and that the secretary of Defense assigned some out-of-state National Guard personnel to protect federal property in D.C.
The escalating protests in D.C. culminated on Monday, June 1, when demonstrators were cleared from an area near the White House shortly before Mr. Trump delivered a Rose Garden speech on the ongoing unrest.
Mr. Barr has said there was no correlation between the order to remove the protesters, which included officials deploying irritants, and Mr. Trump’s subsequent walk over to nearby St. John’s where he held up a Bible in front of the boarded-up church.
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