Peters & Johnson Call for Briefing on Role of Violent Opportunists in Exploiting Peaceful Protests

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, requested a briefing for committee members from the Department of Homeland Security on recent warnings that violent opportunists are attempting to exploit the protests across the country following the death of George Floyd. Others, including foreign adversaries and domestic extremists, are using social media platforms and making other efforts to sow division and escalate tensions in the United States.

“Defending the security of the homeland must include protecting the rights of all Americans, including the right to protest peacefully, from enemies both foreign and domestic,” wrote Peters and Johnson. “That includes being able to separate out those who commit violence and should be prosecuted from those who exercise their rights and should be respected.”

Text of the letter is copied below and available here:

Acting Secretary Chad Wolf
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane, SW
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf,

Over the past few days, we have witnessed widespread protests across the country. The vast majority of protestors are exercising their First Amendment rights to protest systemic injustice and demand change. Unfortunately, a small number of violent actors—reportedly anarchists and other violent opportunists—have taken advantage of the moment to commit violence and destroy property. There are also reports of others using social media platforms to incite distrust and violence, including anti-government agitators, white supremacists, and foreign adversaries, primarily Russia and China. The Department also warned that other extremists may seek to exploit these protests for their own violent ends.

Defending the security of the homeland must include protecting the rights of all Americans, including the right to protest peacefully, from enemies both foreign and domestic. That includes being able to separate out those who commit violence and should be prosecuted from those who exercise their rights and should be respected.

So that the Committee may better understand efforts by domestic extremists and foreign adversaries to exploit a legitimate protest movement to sow division and incite violence, please brief the Committee by June 9, 2020. We appreciate your attention to this important matter.

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