DOJ grants the DEA sweeping authority to investigate George Floyd protestors: report

DOJ grants the DEA sweeping authority to investigate George Floyd protestors: report
President Donald J. Trump walks from the White House Monday evening, June 1, 2020, to St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as the church of Presidents’s, that was damaged by fire during demonstrations in nearby LaFayette Square Sunday evening. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Human Rights

President Donald Trump has been drawing widespread criticism for his vow to use military force against the George Floyd protests, inspiring many to argue he sounds more like a dictator than an elected official. Under this cloud, a troubling BuzzFeed report found that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been granted a new authority to “conduct covert surveillance” and gather intelligence information on protestors.

Journalists Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier describe a two-page U.S. Department of Justice memo that BuzzFeed has obtained. In the memo, Acting DEA Administrator Timothy J. Shea notes that the death of Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 “has spawned widespread protests across the nation, which, in some instances, have included violence and looting. Police agencies in certain areas of the country have struggled to maintain and/or restore order.”

In the memo, Shea also writes: “In order for DEA to assist to the maximum extent possible in the federal law enforcement response to protests which devolve into violations of federal law, DEA requests that it be designated to enforce any federal crime committed as a result of protests over the death of George Floyd. DEA requests this authority on a nationwide basis for a period of 14 days.”

The DOJ, according to BuzzFeed, granted Shea’s DEA request on Sunday, May 31.

Hugh Handeyside, a senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed concerns about his development — telling BuzzFeed: “Drug enforcement agents should not be conducting covert surveillance of protests and First Amendment-protected speech. That kind of monitoring and information sharing may well constitute unwarranted investigation of people exercising their constitutional rights to seek justice. The executive branch continues to run headlong in the wrong direction.”

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