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Bowser and US Attorney's Office at odds over DC protest arrests and prosecutions

Mayor Bowser said in a Monday news conference that the regional DOJ office is reluctant to prosecute outstanding arrest warrants involving local protests.

WASHINGTON — Mayor Muriel Bowser and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are warring over arrests amid social justice protests in Washington this past weekend.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia responded in an open letter to Bowser after she said in a Monday news conference that the regional DOJ office is reluctant to prosecute outstanding arrest warrants involving local protests.

"Mayor Muriel Bowser’s public statement today related to the United States Attorney’s Office reluctant to prosecute '68 outstanding arrest warrants' is patently false and serves no purpose other than to pass blame and foster innuendo," the office of Michael Sherwin, acting United States attorney for the District of Columbia, said. "Since the protests began, this Office has never turned down a single case for prosecution in which there was sufficient evidence to support probable cause."

The exchange between Bowser and the DOJ came after two days of late-night protests in the District that saw multiple arrests and injuries sustained to police officers who were deployed to the area to protect the city and keep the peace.

Bowser's office responded shortly after Sherwin's statement, with its own letter to the acting U.S. attorney for D.C. 

"I was dismayed that your office declined to prosecute 41 of the 42 rioting arrests made on August 13 and 14," Bowser's letter began. "Indeed, since May 30, the Metropolitan Police Department has submitted 63 affidavits in support of arrest and search warrants directly related to criminal activities conducted under the guise of First Amendment assemblies," said Bowser in part of her letter. "Twenty-eight of these warrants have been declined, while another 24 are will pending review by your office. This mirrors a disturbing pattern we have also identified in homicide cases, where our records reveal 18 warrants that are currently pending with your office awaiting action."

Over the past year, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said it has charged more than 9,500 cases, including more than 2,500 felony cases. In regards to the spike in protest-related violence throughout the District this summer, the DOJ said it has aggressively charged 121 criminal cases from May 28, 2020 to Aug. 1, 2020.

The department said it most recently, over the weekend, brought criminal charges against five individuals linked to protest-related violence — two of those cases involved assaults on police officers. 

Bowser said during the Monday presser that the Metropolitan Police Department made another 19 arrests, 14 of which were for felony rioting, after the individuals damaged property and injured officers. 

"Given the stakes for demonstrators seeking to protest peacefully and our officers who are being assaulted while seeking to preserve the peace, I again urge you in the strongest possible terms to move forward with these cases," Bowser said to conclude her letter back to the DC DOJ officer.

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