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The Department of Justice is looking into whether federal charges can be brought against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan over her failure to crack down on a so-called “autonomous zone” controlled for weeks by rioters.
Attorney General William Barr has tasked the DOJ’s civil rights division with investigating whether charges can be brought against Durkan, The New York Times reported on Wednesday evening citing two people familiar with the discussions. Barr has also asked federal prosecutors to consider charging rioters with sedition and insurrection against the United States government, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Rioters took over several city blocks and a police precinct in the middle of Seattle for several weeks over the summer as protests and riots took place following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Durkan eventually ordered police to move into the area and reestablish order following several deadly shootings.
As The Daily Wire reported at the time:
Although the CHOP demonstrations were largely peaceful at first, within the last week there have been three shootings, leaving at least one person dead, one in critical condition, and three others with injuries, according to reports.
Long-term residents of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood expressed their frustration with the protests to city officials last week, telling local media that they no longer felt “safe” in the “occupied” neighborhood and threatening to move their homes and businesses from Capitol Hill permanently.
The mayor, members of the city council, and other city officials continued to defend the protests, claiming that a dangerous, unassociated “element” moved into the CHOP at night, disrupting the zone’s “healing” and “educational” environment. Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan even expressed hope that the protests could continue on a more part-time basis.
Barr’s reported push to charge rioters with federal crimes emphasizes the Trump administration’s push to reestablish law and order across America’s major cities, which have together been rocked by record amounts of damage. Insurance companies may shell out a record $2 billion to businesses and individuals because of riot-related destruction.
President Trump has turned the rampant violence spawned by hundreds of out-of-control riots into a major campaign issue, painting Democratic candidate Joe Biden as a weak leader who would be unable or unwilling to crack down.
Biden condemned violence that had been plaguing the country for months in late August.
Charging rioters with breaking federal laws against sedition may be difficult because of protections guaranteed under the First Amendment.
According to The Wall Street Journal:
To bring a sedition case, prosecutors would have to prove there was a conspiracy to attack government agents or officials that posed an imminent danger, legal experts said. They added that there is a fine line between the expression of antigovernment sentiment, which could be protected speech under the First Amendment even if it included discussions of violence, and a plot that presented an imminent danger and could justify a charge of sedition.