LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – With hundreds of people arrested for looting and vandalizing businesses across the Southland since the George Floyd protests began, federal authorities are looking to get involved in prosecuting them.
The U.S. Justice Department Monday reported that it was working to identify those who had taken part in crimes unrelated to the protests and charge them.
Attorney General William Barr has directed the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI to coordinate with local agencies to identify "organizers, instigators and participants in serious criminal activity" and bring federal charges against them, if appropriate.
"Some have chosen to act with violence by destroying property, ransacking businesses and setting fires. The criminals who have caused havoc in neighborhoods across Southern California appear to be exploiting a situation in which other citizens are exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble and express their viewpoints," U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Nicola Hanna said in a statement. "We are confronting this outlaw behavior by providing federal resources and working closely with local police to identify cases in which federal charges could be appropriately filed."
Anyone with photos or videos of lootings or violence can submit them to the FBI here.
Santa Monica police Sunday arrested more than 400 people who streamed into local businesses along its famous Third Street Promenade, destroying and ransacking stores.
Santa Monica's police chief said more than 95% of those arrested were from out of town and had specifically come in to take advantage of police agencies stretched thin by the protests.
"So what we can glean from intelligence online is that there are opportunists who are tracking where peaceful protests are occurring, and they are then going to that city, knowing that resources will be tied up in ensuring First Amendment rights to free speech," Santa Monica Police Chief Cynthia Renaud told reporters Monday. "They take advantage of that. And they loot and they perform criminal activity."
533 people were arrested in violent protests Saturday night in Beverly Hills and the Fairfax District. Another 75 were arrested in Long Beach Sunday.
On Monday, an estimated 150 people were arrested for looting, vandalism and curfew violations in Hollywood, and another 30 were arrested in Van Nuys.
Hundreds of National Guard troops have been deployed to the region for the first time since the 1992 Rodney King riots.
President Donald Trump Monday evening threatened to deploy the military if the looting and violence continues.
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