The federal government targeted Black Lives Matter protesters with harsh prosecutions to discourage the movement following the murder of George Floyd, according to a report released by the Movement for Black Lives. First shared with the Associated Press, the report argues that as protests during summer 2020 increased, so did police presence, the deployment of federal agents and the prosecution of protesters. The report — “Struggle For Power: The Ongoing Persecution of Black Movement By The U.S. Government” — compared current over-policing to the government’s Counterintelligence Program techniques, which worked to “disrupt the work of the Black Panther Party and other organizations fighting for Black liberation.”
The report implicated the federal government, finding that the push to use federal charges against protesters came from top-down directives from former President Donald Trump and former Attorney General William Barr. In 92.6 percent of the cases, there were equivalent state-level charges that could have been brought against defendants; among those cases where comparable state-level charges could have been brought, 88 percent of the federal criminal charges carried more severe potential sentences than the equivalent state criminal charges for the same or similar conduct. Overall, the report conveys the finding that the government “greatly exaggerated” the threat of violence from protesters.