The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been given temporary power to investigate people participating in the nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd, according to an agency memo acquired by BuzzFeed News.
The development allows DEA — which is normally restricted to the investigation and enforcement of only federal drug crimes — “to enforce any federal crime committed as a result of the protests over the death of George Floyd.”
The agency submitted its request for the increased enforcement power last week and on Sunday a high-ranking Justice Department official signed off on the plan.
“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 fourteen days.” — Excerpt from DEA memo procured by BuzzFeed News
Attorney General William Barr said over the weekend that federal agencies including the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would be “deployed” to support local law enforcement.
“Drug enforcement agents should not be conducting covert surveillance of protests and First Amendment protected speech,” Hugh Handeyside, a senior attorney for the ACLU, told BuzzFeed News.
“That kind of monitoring and information sharing may well constitute unwarranted investigation of people exercising their constitutional rights to seek justice,” Handeyside said. “The executive branch continues to run headlong in the wrong direction.”
The May 25 murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer — on camera and in broad daylight — has sparked outrage and international protests against U.S. police brutality in Floyd’s name. During the chaotic weekend, dozens of cannabis dispensaries were burglarized; many affected business owners, however, said they supported the protests and suspected they had been targeted by opportunistic criminals, not protestors or looters.
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