A U.S. Attorney stated that the FBI has more than 300 open investigations into domestic terrorism related to unrest and riots following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, reported Fox News. The revelation came during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the violence surrounding protests around the country.
“[The FBI] have since May 28 [opened] over 300 domestic terrorist investigations,” Erin Nealy Cox, head of a task force formed to investigate anti-government violence, said. “That does not include any potential civil rights investigations or violent crime associated with the riots.”
The FBI has focused on identifying and prosecuting those individuals responsible for inciting and engaging in violent behavior during the Floyd protests. Raymond Duda, Special Agent in Charge with the Seattle FBI Office recently reported on FBI activities after violence broke out in the Washington city according to KOMO News. “We immediately stood up a command post to work very closely with the Seattle Police Department and our joint terrorism task force to see if we could identify those individuals who were bent on violence, on high jacking the peaceful protests to commit acts of violence that would be potential violations of federal criminal law,” he said.
In June the FBI arrested two men from Erie, PA, Brandon Michael Althof Long and Devin Bryce Poland, on charges of engaging and conspiring to engage in interstate travel with a firearm with the intent to use fire to participate in civil unrest and riot, use of fire to commit a felony, and rioting in connection with violence during protests in Cleveland, OH. The two men communicated by iPhone and Facebook to plan their activities. FBI special agent Eric Smith referred to the motives of the two men saying, “None of the messages exchanged between Mr. Poland and Mr. Long mentioned how their travel to Cleveland was to memorialize and honor the memory of George Floyd. Quite the opposite. The sole aim was to fan the literal flames of rioters because, and I quote from their messages, ‘it’s a once in a lifetime thing.’”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), chairman of the subcommittee, also pointed out that rioters were hijacking legitimate protests concerning racial injustice. Cruz said of the rioters, “Their actions are profoundly racist. The rioters …. destroy minority communities, minority businesses and minority lives across this country. This shouldn’t be complicated: peaceful protests must be protected. Riots must be stopped.”
Acting Director of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli also testified before the subcommittee. He said that federal law officers suffered 277 injuries during their time guarding the federal courthouse in Portland, OR against attacks by demonstrators.
Democratic subcommittee members placed their focus on criticism of federal law enforcement officers and what the Democrats called overly aggressive actions against peaceful protesters. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) claimed that protesters were “holding flowers, dancing, chanting” before federal officers arrived in the city and implied that the arrival of the federal officers changed the situation for the worse.