The ACLU is demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate a violent police assault last month on peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators near the White House—a crackdown reportedly ordered by Attorney General William Barr.
"A full, independent investigation now is necessary to hold him and any other officials who may be responsible for this chilling incident accountable today."
—Kate Ruane, ACLU
"The suspect can't be the investigator," the ACLU the tweeted. "We need a full investigation independent of Barr."
The group sent a letter (pdf) Tuesday morning urging Barr and other Justice Department officials involved in the law enforcement crackdown to recuse themselves from any investigation into the June 1 incident, which came amid nationwide demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd.
"On that day, at approximately 6:25 pm, federal and other government forces attacked peaceful protesters and journalists covering the event without warning and unprovoked, used tear gas, flash bang grenades, and rubber bullets to drive the crowd out of the public park they lawfully occupied," the letter reads.
"These actions were an unconstitutional violation of protesters' right to speak, assemble, and petition the government under the First Amendment and to remain free of unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment," the letter continues. "You must take all necessary steps to ensure that you and others involved in the ordering and carrying out of the use of force have no role in the appointment or supervision of the special counsel."
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Barr last month denied ordering law enforcement officials to push back the security perimeter outside the White House to clear the way for President Donald Trump's walk to St. John's Church for a photo-op.
But anonymous Justice Department officials and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told the media that Barr personally made the order that resulted in the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.
"When A.G. Barr came to the White House—I think it was early afternoon—he noticed that it hadn't been cleared, gave the order for it to be cleared, and that action took place," McEnany said during a June 3 press briefing.
Kate Ruane, ACLU senior legislative counsel, said in a statement Tuesday that "Barr and other administration officials appear to have criminally conspired to violently attack lawful demonstrators and all signs indicate they have since been engaged in a concerted cover up effort."
"History books will certainly remember Bill Barr for the crimes of the Trump administration, but a full, independent investigation now is necessary to hold him and any other officials who may be responsible for this chilling incident accountable today," said Ruane.