Attorney General William Barr said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday that left-wing groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter have “hijacked legitimate protests” over the death of a black man in police custody by rioting for two months in Portland, Oregon, attacking police and trying to destroy the federal courthouse and other federal property in the city.
“I want to address a different breakdown in the rule of law that we have witnessed over the past two months,” Barr said. “In the wake of George Floyd’s death, violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims.”
“The current situation in Portland is a telling example,” Barr said. “Every night for the past two months, a mob of hundreds of rioters has laid siege to the federal courthouse and other nearby federal property.”
“The rioters have come equipped for a fight, armed with powerful slingshots, tasers, sledgehammers, saws, knives, rifles, and explosive devices. Inside the courthouse are a relatively small number of federal law enforcement personnel charged with a defensive mission: to protect the courthouse,” Barr said.
“What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest; it is, by any objective measure, an assault on the government of the United States,” Barr said.
“Every member of this committee, regardless of your political views or your feelings about the Trump administration should condemn violence against federal officers and the destruction of federal property,” Barr said.
In his prepared remarks, Barr offered more details about the Portland riots.
“In recent nights, rioters have barricaded the front door of the courthouse, pried plywood off the windows with crowbars, and thrown commercial-grade fireworks into the building in an apparent attempt to burn it down with federal personnel inside,” Barr said.
“The rioters have started fires outside the building, and then systematically attacked federal law enforcement officers who attempt to put them out — for example, by pelting the officers with rocks, frozen water bottles, cans of food, and balloons filled with fecal matter,” Barr said. “A recent video showed a mob enthusiastically beating a deputy U.S. marshal who was trying to protect the courthouse — a property of the United States government funded by this Congress — from further destruction.”
“A number of federal officers have been injured, including one severely burned by a mortar-style firework and three who have suffered serious eye injuries and may be permanently blind,” Barr said.