Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and systemic racism, claiming supporters are “not interested in Black lives” and seek only to push a political agenda.
Barr, whose Justice Department has aggressively pursued charges against those who commit violence or vandalism during the protests, discussed the movement during an event at conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan.
“Who can quarrel with the proposition Black lives matter? But they’re not interested in Black lives,” Barr told the audience. “They’re interested in props ― a small number of Blacks who were killed by police during conflict with police, usually less than a dozen a year ― who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda.”
Barr’s claim that “less than a dozen” Black people are killed by police each year is false. According to The Washington Post, which tracks every fatal shooting in the U.S. by a police officer, at least 250 Black people were killed by an officer last year. Though Black people account for less than 13% of the U.S. population, they are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans, reported The Post.
The FBI began tracking uses of police force last year, but only 40% of law enforcement agencies reported submitted data for 2019, according to the Post.
It’s likely Barr was referring to the number of unarmed Black men killed by police, which totaled 14 last year, the Post reported.
Though Black Lives Matter is a massive, decentralized movement whose supporters’ demands on how to address police brutality vary, there is a national organization with more than a dozen official chapters.
The organization was created as “a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism” and is focused on creating a world where “every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive,” according to its website.
President Donald Trump and his allies, including Barr, have attacked Black Lives Matter protesters as “left-wing extremists” and “thugs.”
Last month, Barr accused Black Lives Matter supporters of being “a revolutionary group that is interested in some form of socialism, communism.”
“They’re essentially Bolsheviks,” he told Fox News at the time, referring to the early 20th-century Marxist political party in Russia.
In June, Trump vowed that his administration would crack down on “terrorist” demonstrators following episodes of looting during the massive, largely peaceful protests that erupted nationwide following the police killing of George Floyd.
During the event Wednesday at Hillsdale College, Barr criticized stay-at-home orders issued during the pandemic to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” he said, drawing applause from the audience.