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Congresswoman Cori Bush Sends Letter to the Department of Justice Inspector General Calling for Investigation into DOJ’s Treatment of Black Protesters

February 12, 2021

ST. LOUIS, MO – Today, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) sent a letter to the Department of Justice Inspector General, Michael E. Horowitz, with deep concern regarding the disparate treatment of Black protesters in defense of Black lives and the white supremacist insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. In her letter, the Congresswoman asks the Inspector General to investigate the targeting and criminalizing of activists and protesters by federal law enforcement. 

“The stark contrast between police treatment of these insurgents and the protesters who took to the street following the police murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd could not be clearer,” the Congresswoman wrote. “In the aftermath of the police torture and murder of George Floyd on June 1, 2020, 326 people were arrested. That same day, police officers cleared protesters using chemical agents to allow President Trump a chance to take a photo-op, and former Attorney General Bill Barr instructed law enforcement officers to clear the streets around Lafayette Square, a directive that led to significant aggressive policing towards peaceful protests. In a year of mass protests in defense of Black lives, when we have all borne witness to the deadly consequences of police brutality and negligence, this discrepancy is personal. Too many of us witnessed the events of January 6th and knew that if these insurrectionists looked like us, the response would have been very different.”

“As an organizer, nurse, pastor, and activist on the ground in Ferguson in the wake of Michael Brown Jr.’s murder, I was tear gassed and physically assaulted by law enforcement,” the Congresswoman continued. “I was stomped on by police officers for trying to help a woman who we believed to be having a heart attack. I saw friends and neighbors arrested and violence unleashed in our streets as law enforcement, including federal agents, swarmed into Ferguson in 2014. I understand, intimately, the cyclical trauma of criminalizing protest movements. The federal charges that have been lodged against Black protesters have lasting impacts on the lives of those in our communities. It impacts our housing, our benefits, our access to social safety nets and resources. It is because of this that I am committed to not only understanding the federal patterns and practices as they pertain to the criminalization of Black protesters—but I am also fueled to propose solutions in an effort to mitigate these trends.”

In her letter, Congresswoman Bush stressed the importance of understanding the federal patterns and practices as they pertain to the criminalization of Black protesters. Specifically, the Congresswoman asked the Department of Justice to provide the following information:

  1. During the summer 2020 protests that followed the torture and murder of George Floyd and the murder of Breonna Taylor, did the Department of Justice implement policies and procedures to guard against the violation of First Amendment rights, particularly when it came to mass protests stemming from police violence? If so, please provide documents with that information.
  2. Did the Department of Justice issue guidance to federal agents and/or prosecutors related to the arrest and charging decisions that stemmed from the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor protests in the summer of 2020 and to the January 6th attack on the Capitol? If so, please provide documents with that information.
  3. Between 2014-2020, how many people have been federally charged due to activities relating to Black Lives Matter protests? To the extent possible, please disaggregate this data by race, gender, and county for each year.
  4. Between 2014-2020, how many people have been held in federal detention, without bail, due to activities relating to Black Lives Matter protests?  
  5. Between 2014-2020, how many complaints of misconduct have been lodged against federal agents during Black Lives Matter protests? If there were complaints lodged against federal agents, did the Department of Justice investigate them further?
  6. Between 2014-2020, how many civil rights complaints have been lodged against federal agents for their conduct during Black Lives Matter protests?
  7. Between 2014-2020, did the apprehension and charging decisions of the Department of Justice result in racially disparate outcomes?

For any information that is unavailable, the Congresswoman requested the Department to outline a plan for collecting the data in the future. 

A PDF of the letter can be found here.

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Congresswoman Cori Bush represents Missouri’s First Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. She serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. She is also a Deputy Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a proud member of the Congressional Black Caucus. She is a registered nurse, single mother, and an ordained pastor. Following the murder of Michael Brown Jr. by a now-terminated Ferguson police officer, she became a civil rights activist and community organizer fighting for justice for Black lives on the streets of Missouri and across the country.