The American Civil Liberties Union Tuesday called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General William Barr violated protesters’ civil rights when he ordered their forcible removal from a park near the White House last month.
“Attorney General Bill 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,” said Kate Ruane, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “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.”
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Barr has come under fire from Democrats and the media after he had ordered law enforcement to extend the perimeter of Lafayette Square on June 4. Both peaceful and violent protests have taken place at the park, which sits directly across the street from the White House.
The order came just minutes before President Trump walked across the park to a historic church to address the nationwide unrest. Critics have alleged the protesters were moved so the president could stage a photo-op.
Tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets were used against protesters who were demonstrating against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed on Memorial Day while in the custody of the Minneapolis police.
“A full, independent and complete criminal investigation into the actions in Lafayette Square and the extent to which they violated existing laws is warranted,” the ACLU wrote in its letter to Mr. Barr.
“[The] appointment of an outside prosecutor is needed to ensure impartiality of any investigation and, if warranted, prosecution of any members of the executive branch,” the group wrote.
Mr. Barr has defended the response, saying the demonstrators had become increasingly violent and government buildings had been set afire and vandalized the night before.
Rioters used crowbars to dig out pavements throwing the concrete at federal officers, resulting in 114 injuries to federal law enforcement officers and 22 had to be hospitalized with serious head injuries or concussions, Mr. Barr said.
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