Barr, reported The New York Times, asked prosecutors in the Department of Justice’s civil rights department to investigate whether they could charge Durkan as a result of protests this summer when some protesters established a police-free zone in downtown Seattle.
“The Department of Justice cannot become a political weapon operated at the President’s command to target those who have spoken out against this government’s actions,” Durkan, a former U.S. attorney, said in a statement. “It is an act of tyranny, not of democracy.”
“Ultimately, this is not a story about me. It’s about how this president and his attorney general are willing to undermine the law and use the Justice Department for political purposes,”
; she added. “It is particularly sinister to try to use the civil rights laws to investigate, intimidate or deter those who are fighting for civil rights in our country.”
Durkan and the Trump administration had repeatedly colluded over how to deal with the protesters who camped and occupied the area outside the Seattle police’s East Precinct building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which protesters called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.
Despite threats from Trump, Durkan said the city would not accept federal troops to move the protesters out. “The threat of invading Seattle – to divide and incite violence in our city – is not only unwelcome, it would be illegal,” she said at the time, declaring the majority of the protests peaceful.
Seattle police eventually dispersed protesters from the area in July following an emergency order from Durkan.
Barr’s proposal that prosecutors should consider filing charges against the mayor falls in line with his public position since George Floyd’s death in late May with Minneapolis police.
The Attorney General has proven to be a law-and-order man and has used speeches to show firm support for the police and to quell unrest rather than for the peaceful message advocating for reforms of law enforcement.
CNN reported earlier Wednesday that Barr had expressed frustration over some local and state prosecutors’ handling of riot-related crimes, telling the top prosecutors for the Justice Department that he wants them to be aggressive in prosecuting protest violence, including exploring the use of a rarely used behavior. according to a person familiar with the matter.
It’s a theme that has gained traction in conservative media, which Barr follows closely, and he is known for focusing on the issue from time to time.
Still, some federal prosecutors were surprised last week when the attorney general raised the possibility of accusing violent protesters of rioting, which is a conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government.
This story has been updated with additional background information and context.
CNN’s Evan Perez contributed to this report.