Jane Roh, District Attorney’s Office, 215–686–8711, Jane.Roh@phila.gov
PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 17, 2020) — District Attorney Larry Krasner joined city Councilmembers Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Helen Gym (At-Large), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large) to condemn the Trump Administration’s efforts to punish Black Lives Matter protesters, including unsheltered people fighting for basic human rights like housing.
According to reports by news outlets including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Attorney General William Barr has ordered Justice Department prosecutors to crack down on protesters by applying the law against sedition, or insurrection against the U.S. government. Barr has also reportedly explored bringing criminal charges against elected officials in Seattle and Portland over Black Lives Matter protests in their cities.
“Instead of protecting Americans and keeping them safe, Donald Trump and his chief consigliere Bill Barr attack democratic norms and endanger the lives of our neighbors. Threatening unhoused people, the most vulnerable among us, with violent arrest and punitive prosecution is cruel and outrageous,” District Attorney Krasner said. “This is not law and order; it is lawlessness and disorder, designed to intimidate protesters and dissenters into silence. Invoking the might and muscle of the federal government to punish deeply impoverished and unhoused people — many of whom are Black, people of color, and LGBTQ — is to attack our most hard-fought and sacred principles of liberty, equality, and freedom. The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, the birthplace of the United States Constitution, will stand strong in the face of wannabe fascists.”
“This is just the latest in a deeply disturbing trend of members of the Trump Administration threatening violence against Black and brown community members for asserting their basic rights,” Councilmember Kendra Brooks said. “Together, we stand tall against bullies, bigots, and all who abuse their power for political gain. Having worked with the residents and organizers of the encampments firsthand I feel strongly that their right to protest must be protected and their safety must be prioritized. We are committed to defending our unhoused community members and protecting our democracy.”
“Surely the U.S. Attorney has better things to do with his time than to threaten unhoused people in our city. Imagine if we directed all the money spent trying to punish these folks towards creating sustainable affordable housing instead,” Councilmember Jamie Gauthier said. “This threat from the U.S. Attorney is a gross misdirection of power that is utterly cruel and unnecessary. It’s also incredibly disturbing for him to signal that Philadelphia Police may act with impunity. This is not how a democracy functions.”
“This is another example of federal overreach seeking to override decisions made by local elected officials. It is not just a heinous threat that instills fear at a time when we should be building trust, it is a threat to Philadelphians’ right to elect their own leaders and make their own decisions,” Councilmember Helen Gym said. “All summer, the people have spoken. We want peaceful resolutions to our most urgent problems — not threats of maximum prison sentences from an administration that should instead be focused on saving lives.”
“We don’t need Trump’s DOJ coming to Philly to sow fear and division. We need more people willing to come to the table to find legitimate solutions to homelessness,” Councilmember Isaiah Thomas added.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million citizens of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually.