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caption: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., questions Attorney General William Barr during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the oversight of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, July 28, 2020 in Washington.
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Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., questions Attorney General William Barr during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the oversight of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, July 28, 2020 in Washington.
Credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

Jayapal goes after Attorney General Barr over federal force against protesters

Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and U.S. Attorney general William Barr had a heated exchange in a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.

Jayapal accused Barr of hypocrisy in the federal response to Black Lives Matter protests, saying he was less harsh on right-wing activists who went to state capital campuses to protest against the coronavirus lockdowns.

In answer to a question from Jayapal, Barr said he wasn't aware of threats in Michigan against the governor.

"There are a lot of protests around the United States," he said.

"When protesters carried guns and Confederate flags and swastikas and called for the governor of Michigan to be beheaded, and shot, and lynched, somehow you're not aware of that? Somehow you didn't know about it so you didn't send federal agents in … you didn't put pepper balls on those protesters,” Jayapal said.

"But when black people and people of color protest police brutality, systemic racism and the president's very own lack of response to those critical issues, then you forcibly remove them with armed federal officers, pepper bombs, because they are considered terrorists by the president."

In earlier questioning, Barr defended his actions on protests and the Trump administration, including its decision to send agents to protect federal property in Portland, Ore. and Seattle.

"What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called protests," Barr said of Portland. "It is by any objective measure an assault on the government of the United States."

Later, Barr said: "Look around the country. Even where there are riots occurring, we have not had to put in the kind of reinforcement we have in Portland because the state and local law enforcement does their job and will not allow rioters to come and just physically assault the courthouse. In Portland, that is not the case."

In her questioning of Barr, Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-AZ, complained that Jayapal and other Democrats were downplaying the role of antifa protesters. Lesko repeatedly mispronounced Jayapal's name until Jayapal corrected her.

Lesko and other Republicans brought up the protests on Seattle's Capitol Hill and said Seattle leaders had failed to act to quell violence.

Read more on Barr's testimony on other topics in this NPR report.