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U.S. Attorney General Barr: Not aware of threats against Whitmer

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

U.S. Attorney General William Barr told a panel of lawmakers Tuesday that he wasn't aware of threats made against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by protesters who opposed her stay-at-home orders.

Barr, who appeared before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, was pressed by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, on differences in the federal government's response toward protests against police brutality and demonstrations against Whitmer's restrictions aimed at combating COVID-19.

Attorney General William Barr

In the spring, multiple demonstrations in Lansing drew national attention and hundreds of protesters to the Michigan Capitol, where some carried signs with vulgar themes against Whitmer. On April 30, one participant held a sign that read, "Tyrants get the rope."

Jayapal argued that Barr and President Donald Trump's Republican administration had taken an "aggressive approach" against Black Lives Matter protesters by sending federal agents to some locations but hadn't taken action against "right-wing extremists threatening to lynch a governor."

Jayapal said that protesters in Michigan had "swarmed" the Michigan Capitol. Some of them carried guns, swastikas or Confederate flags, she said.

"Are you aware that these protesters called for the governor to be lynched, shot and beheaded?” Jayapal asked Barr.

The attorney general responded that he wasn't.

"There are a lot of protests around the U.S.," Barr said.

"You are aware of certain kinds of protesters but in Michigan, 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," Jayapal said later.

An unnamed protester carries a sign that says, "Tyrants get the rope," outside the Michigan Capitol during a demonstration on Thursday,  April 30, 2020.

Barr said he has responsibility for the federal government, including the White House in Washington, D.C., where authorities clashed with protesters on June 1.

Barr seemed to suggest Michigan authorities "can handle" events in the state, but he was cut off before he could finish his response.

On April 30, protesters entered the Michigan Capitol where they gathered outside the Michigan House and chanted to be let in. Others carried guns in the gallery above the Senate floor as lawmakers met below, igniting a debate over whether guns should continue to be allowed in the building.

During a May 14 protest, another demonstrator carried an unclothed female doll with a noose around the neck.

Also in May, a 32-year-old Detroit man was charged with a felony after allegedly making "credible threats to kill" Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, both Democrats.

cmauger@detroitnews.com