Barr Slams ‘Black Lives Matter,’ Compares Lockdown to Slavery

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The Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t care about Black lives but instead wants to use African Americans who were killed at the hands of police as “props” to advance its political agenda, Attorney General William Barr said.

“They’re not interested in Black lives, they’re interested in props,” Barr said Wednesday night at an event on constitutional law in Arlington, Virginia. “A small number of Blacks were killed by police during conflict with police -- usually less than a dozen a year -- who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda.”

Barr Slams ‘Black Lives Matter,’ Compares Lockdown to Slavery

The provocative comment was one of several that the nation’s top law enforcement officer made as he took on hot-button issues, including criticizing his own lower-level prosecutors as acting like “head hunters” in overzealous prosecutions. He also called the lockdowns by some states as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history” since slavery.

Barr has stepped up his role as point person for President Donald Trump’s effort to brand himself as the “law and order” candidate ahead of the November election. On a call with federal prosecutors last week, Barr told officials to consider charges against Seattle’s mayor for allowing a “police-free” zone in the city and to weigh charging violent protesters with sedition, Dow Jones and the New York Times reported.

Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan, said the statements were “an act of tyranny, not of democracy.”

Brian Moran, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington state, pushed back on that aspect of the report, saying “at no time has anyone at the Department communicated to me that Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is, was, or should be the subject of a criminal investigation or should be charged with any federal crime.”

In criticizing lower-level prosecutors who do the Justice Department’s day-to-day work charging criminals, Barr said he, as attorney general, and other political appointees at the Justice Department are ultimately responsible for making decisions about prosecutions.

Barr’s remarks about Black Lives Matter come as the U.S. is reeling over several highly-charged episodes in which police have killed Black Americans, prompting protests in multiple cities. The victims include George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed by an officer in Minneapolis who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. The officer has been charged with murder.

Barr -- who said “who can quarrel with the proposition Black lives matter” -- suggested he thinks the issue of Black-on-Black crime is being overshadowed by police killings of minorities.

“I view the question of Black lives as not only keeping people alive but also having prosperity and flourishing in their communities,” Barr said. “Most deaths in the inner city of young Black males below the age of 44, the leading cause of death is being shot by another Black person. And that’s crime.”

Barr Slams ‘Black Lives Matter,’ Compares Lockdown to Slavery

He portrayed Trump administration officials as ultimately being the ones trying to find solutions to systemic racism and other issues of equity fueling protests.

“The left likes to talk about dealing with the root causes, but all their solutions depend on peaceful streets at the end of the day,” Barr said. “Education, after-school activities, all this stuff depends on peace.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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