A new report from the Movement for Black Lives found the federal government targeted Black Lives Matter protesters with harsher prosecution in order to disrupt and deter activism.
The social justice organization partnered with the CLEAR clinic at the City University of New York School of Law. CLEAR analyzed 326 criminal cases initiated by federal prosecutors against protesters following the murder of George Floyd. According to the report, in over 80% of the cases the federal charges carried more severe punishments than state or local law.
The drive to federally prosecute protesters came from former President Donald Trump and the former Attorney General William Barr. Ash-Lee Henderson, the executive director of the Highlander Research & Education Center in Tennessee, said the report shows the government is continuing a historic campaign against Black-led movements.
“What this data proves is quantitatively what we’ve been saying qualitatively now for centuries about the overreach of the government to stop and try to slow down or cease and desist the liberation movement led by Black people, particularly as it calls out their complicity in police brutality and mass incarceration of our people,” she said.
Data on the race of the defendants was only available for 27% of cases, and it shows an overwhelming majority were Black men.
“When we look at the anti-mask protests, when we look at the insurrection at the Capitol, these people faced [fewer] consequences than our protesters,” said Henderson. “We’re seeing a clear disproportionate response when it’s Black people fighting for Black liberation.”
The report states there were 15 federal prosecutions in Minnesota. Kandace Montgomery, the director of Black Visions Collective, says the actions of law enforcement during racial justice protests showed they were not there to keep civilians safe.
“So the ways that our state and federal government are willing to, literally enact war on their citizens and their people is deeply troublesome and needs to be understood as part of this larger conversation,” she said. “It’s not just about policing, it is about a culture of punishment that we’re investing billions of dollars into.”
In response to its findings, the Movement for Black Lives is advocating for amnesty for all racial justice protesters.The federal government has yet to respond to the report.
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