Justice Department officials told a hearing, chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), that investigators have opened around 300 “domestic terror” cases as a result of the riots that arose following national anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests in June and July.
Cruz is hosting a Congressional inquiry into the role of Antifa or other anarchist groups in organizing, directing, and even arming riots that took place in a number of major cities, including in places like Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, where the unrest continues.
On Tuesday, Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney leading Attorney General William Barr’s inquiry into the matter, testified that “the feds have opened hundreds of federal criminal investigations surrounding the violence and rioting since May 28,” according to Fox News.
“They have since May 28 [opened] over 300 domestic terrorist investigations,” Cox said. “That does not include any potential civil rights investigations or violent crime associated with the riots.”
Cruz’s inquiry focuses on rioters who may have “hijacked” the peaceful protests that followed the death of George Floyd, a black man who perished while in Minneapolis police custody, according to the outlet. The hearings have already proven contentious. On Tuesday, Sen. Maisie Hirono (D-HI) made a dramatic exit from the meeting after Cruz confronted her for refusing to acknowledge Antifa’s role in the unrest or even say the organization’s name.
The Justice Department announced back in early June that they would be looking into whether individuals, arrested during riots in places like Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Chicago, Illinois, had ties to more radical groups. By June 10th, at least 50 people had been arrested in connection with instigating violent unrest, but none were ultimately charged with domestic terrorism or accused of having connections to a domestic terror group, according to Forbes.
Attorney General Barr later noted that the FBI and DOJ investigations into Antifa are ongoing and that charges would only come after months of investigation, potentially with the cooperation of those arrested during the riots.
“We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity,” Barr said in a press conference in early June.
“We have some investigations underway, very focused investigations on certain individuals that relate to Antifa,” Barr said in a separate interview. “But in the initial phase of identifying people and arresting them, they were arrested for crimes that don’t require us to identify a particular group or don’t necessitate that.”
Cruz’s focus was on Portland, which has seen more than 60 straight days of nightly unrest, although the situation has calmed somewhat since the Department of Homeland Security began to pull agents assigned to protect that city’s federal courthouse. Despite claims from Democratic legislators that Portland’s protests were mostly peaceful — a claim not borne out by on-the-ground footage — Cruz and Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli both noted that federal agents, and the courthouse itself, sustained considerable damage.
“Cuccinelli told lawmakers that an estimated 140 federal law enforcement officers guarding a Portland federal courthouse sustained 277 injuries due to the violent and sustained nightly attacks at the building,” according to Fox News.