The administration of president Donald Trump has directed federal prosecutors to aggressively pursue cases against protesters accused of violence. In a memo emailed to federal attorneys, sent out on Thursday, September 17, the US Justice Department has instructed prosecutors to also make use of the rarely used criminal sedition charges against protesters when required.
The memo was sent by deputy attorney general Jeffrey A. Rosen. The email stated that both he and attorney general William Barr agreed that the use of charges of “seditious conspiracy” was appropriate against the supposedly violent protesters. The memo comes a day after reports revealed a similar push by Barr, a Trump appointee, for using the sedition charges against protesters in a phone call to federal prosecutors last week.
Rosen also goes ahead and tells attorneys that the application of Section 2384 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which deals with sedition, does not require evidence of any purported plot against the state. He argued that the critics of this section are not aware of its broad scope and that it is proper to apply it on various acts challenging the federal government’s authority.
According to the Associated Press, who accessed the memo, Rosen also gives hypothetical situations where the section can be used, such as when “a group has conspired to take a federal courthouse or other federal property by force.” He also cited acts that involve obstructing law enforcement agencies as an example.
Section 2384 is a rarely used section of the US criminal code and carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. It was often reserved only for individuals or organizations involved in actively attempting to violently overthrow the government. The suggested expansion of what can be defined as sedition can be used against hundreds of citizens who resisted federal law enforcement agencies in response to repressive tactics.
According to reports, over 300 demonstrators have been charged with federal crimes, during the course of the protests. Civil rights advocates have pointed out that many of these charges are either exaggerated claims by law enforcement agencies or completely trumped up.