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Barr Floats Idea of Sedition Charges Against Protesters

Attorney general also says shutdowns are biggest intrusion on civil liberties since slavery
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2020 11:56 AM CDT
Updated Sep 17, 2020 12:02 PM CDT

(Newser) – The attorney general is making all kinds of headlines this week as he slams COVID-19 shutdowns, considers a big charge against protesters, and faults prosecutors in his own Justice Department. Coverage about William Barr:

  • Volatile words: During a Q&A at Hillsdale College in Michigan on Wednesday, Barr was asked about COVID-19 shutdowns. "You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest," he said, per the Hill. "Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history." He accused most governors of treating people as if they were "babies."
  • Pushback: Democratic Rep. James Clyburn on Thursday called the slavery comparison "the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful thing I've ever heard," reports the AP. "It is incredible [that] the chief law enforcement officer in this country would equate human bondage to expert advice to save lives," Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black member in Congress, told CNN. "Slavery was not about saving lives, it was about devaluing lives."

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  • Decision-makers: In his comments Wednesday, Barr also suggested that medical professionals and scientists shouldn't be making decisions on pandemic rules, reports Politico. "The person in the white coat is not the 'grand seer' who can come up with a right decision for society," he said. "A free people makes its decision through its elected representative."
  • Another controversy: In a phone call last week to federal prosecutors, Barr suggested they consider charging violent protesters with sedition—essentially accusing them of working to overthrow the government, reports the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Legal experts, though, say there's a big difference between expressing anti-government sentiment and actually plotting a coup.
  • Seattle mayor: Barr also suggested the possibility of bringing criminal charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who allowed protesters to set up a police-free zone, reports the Times. A Justice Department spokesman, however, denied Barr did that. Durkan herself called the prospect "chilling" and an "abuse of power," per CNN.
  • Getting political: Barr isn't shying away from inserting his views into the November election. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he said that if Joe Biden wins, "we are going to find ourselves irrevocably committed to a socialist path," reports WCSI.
(Read more William Barr stories.)

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