Violent, destructive, building-seizing protesters could soon face charges of sedition, according to an internal memo of the Justice Department.
In the memo to U.S. attorneys, Jeffrey Rosen, the department’s No. 2 official, wrote that he and Attorney General William Barr have told federal prosecutors to aggressively target demonstrators who incite violence, MailOnline is reporting.
According to the memo, prosecutors do not need to prove demonstrators were plotting to overthrow the U.S. government in order to level rarely used counts of sedition against them.
The rarely used law could instead be applied when a defendant tries to oppose governmental authority by force, the memo states.
“In appropriate cases – for instance, where a group has conspired to take a federal courthouse or other federal property by force – you should consider a charge,” Rosen wrote.
That scenario actually played out during the summer of 2020 in Portland, Ore., when clashes that erupted night after night between police and demonstrators escalated into threats and attempts to seize the courthouse.
The “seditious conspiracy” statute makes it a crime to plot to overthrow the U.S. government or wage war against it, and it also outlaws attempts to prevent authorities from enforcing the law. Those found guilty of breaking that law could face up to 20 years in prison.
Authorities used the law to successfully prosecute people who traveled overseas to fight against American forces after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Prosecutors also brought sedition charges against nine members of an anti-government militia in 2010 who were charged with plotting a violent uprising, but the case was dismissed.