People run as police disperse demonstrators during a protest amid nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd, in Washington. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Following a weekend of anger and unrest in cities nationwide, U.S. officials sought to determine whether extremist groups had infiltrated protests. Numerous political leaders including the Governor of Minnesota have assigned blame to various groups over the violent protests, but few of the accusations have been presented with evidence to support the claims.

Law enforcement officials have said they are “examining both local and out-of-state actors focused on creating damage and inciting violent confrontations with police.” On Sunday, President Trump stated that the U.S. would name Antifa, a “loosely affiliated group of far-left anti-fascism activists,” as a domestic terrorist organization. However, senior officials within the Justice Department have “publicly warned against” the designation due to potential First Amendment consequences.

Numerous cases of potential provocateurs were discussed throughout the weekend as well. On Friday, Vice News highlighted that “Boogaloo Bois,” a group of “armed anti-government extremists made visible by their Hawaiian shirts,” have reportedly been spotted at some protests. The President of Spokane, Washington’s branch of the NAACP, Kurtis Robison, stated that there were also reports of “organizations like the Proud Boys” seen at protests. 

Beyond potential outside provocateurs, some have also pointed toward police as potential instigators of conflict. Photos and videos emerged from the weekend of protests showing officers handling protestors aggressively, causing some to question the legitimacy of police de-escalation methods. Videos showed officers using batons, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and even displaying “white power” signs to protesters and bystanders. Since the weekend, several officers have been fired or suspended following their use of force and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would mount an independent review of police behavior. At a press conference, NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said “We practice de-escalation but it is very difficult to practice de-escalation when you’re having a brick thrown at you.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Authorities suspect white supremacists and far-left extremists are behind violence at protests – CBS News – 5/30/2020
Federal and local authorities suspect some of the violent clashes during recent protests were instigated by white supremacist groups and far-left extremists. Protests have erupted across the country following the death of George Floyd. Jeff Pegues reports.

The Congresswoman Pepper-Sprayed by Police – The Atlantic – 5/31/2020Standing in front of a Pizza Rustica, she can be heard urging her fellow protesters not to taunt the police. “Don’t excite them!” she yells, again and again. For a few seconds, the scene seems as if it could de-escalate. Then, suddenly, an officer throws a protester to the ground, and any semblance of order is lost.

Videos, threats, but few signs protests have been stoked by ‘outsider’ extremist groups – NBC News – 6/1/2020
While some Democratic governors sought to blame far-right groups, Republicans in the federal government pinned unrest on far-left groups. U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said violence at the riots was the work of “far-left extremist groups using antifa-like tactics.” President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that “It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left. Don’t lay the blame on others!”

De-escalation Keeps Protesters And Police Safer. Departments Respond With Force Anyway. – FiveThirtyEight – 6/1/2020
Researchers have spent 50 years studying the way crowds of protesters and crowds of police behave — and what happens when the two interact. One thing they will tell you is that when the police respond by escalating force — wearing riot gear from the start, or using tear gas on protesters — it doesn’t work.

Police Playbooks Tested by Nationwide Protests – The Wall Street Journal – 6/1/2020
Several videos emerged showing some officers handling protesters aggressively, including one which appeared to show an officer shoving a woman to the ground. Another video showed a police vehicle in Brooklyn driving into a crowd of protesters behind a barricade. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would mount an independent review of police behavior.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

carvell on Twitter, 5/30/2020: just want to point out that in a demonstration against police brutality, police are not law enforcement, they’re counter protesters. maybe that perspective will help someone you love make sense of what we’re seeing

Ryan Goodman on Twitter, 6/1/2020: “Members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group … appeared at Black Lives Matter protests over the weekend. … Several known Proud Boys were photographed dressed in traditional all-black Antifa garb at a rally in Portland on Saturday” https://t.co/25vnGq94mJ

Eric Michael Garcia on Twitter, 6/1/2020: Blaming outside agitators seems easy for elected officials because a) it allows them not to blame their own constituents and condemn violence and B) allows them to not address the concerns of protesters. Good piece by @BrandyZadrozny and @oneunderscore__ https://t.co/46R9EJ1vqg

Vox on Twitter, 6/1/2020: Some law enforcement officers are treating America like a battlefield. https://t.co/eplc8LB7nR

 

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