As President Trump threatens to use the U.S. military to quell protests, Attorney General William Barr has activated hundreds of DOJ security forces onto the streets of D.C. They come from various federal agencies: DEA, ATF, even the federal Bureau of Prisons. They are federal officers, but in many cases, you might not be able to identify them. Some of them lack insignia identifying their agencies. Many don't display badges.
Barr promised boots on the ground in D.C., just days after police used tear gas to clear protesters away for Trump's photo op. But critics say these unidentified officers mean no avenue for accountability if protesters get arrested or get their rights violated.
One National Guard member was so appalled by what he saw, he told VICE News he's going AWOL and refusing to join his unit to police protesters after it was mobilized. He wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retribution to his family.
“After what happened in Lafayette Park, I couldn't wait any longer. That was sickening to me. And I didn't even want to put on the uniform anymore,” he told VICE News on Thursday.
He expects to face consequences ranging from an administrative discharge and paying some fees to facing a court martial.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are taking note of the beefed-up law enforcement presence in the federal district. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced legislation Thursday that would require uniformed federal agents on domestic security duties to clearly show their names and identify who they're with.
"It's really impossible for the United States to be preaching to China that they shouldn’t be cracking down on the protesters in Hong Kong when we are turning the United States military on peaceful protesters, tear gassing people who are just standing around trying to enact political change and listening to a president that equates protesters with terrorists,” he told VICE News.
Cover: Unmarked federal riot officers confront protesters in Washington, D.C. (VICE News)