Barr signals DOJ support for lockdown protesters

When Attorney General William Barr this week directed U.S. prosecutors to safeguard civil liberties amid state-level pandemic orders, he signaled Justice Department support for lockdown protesters by highlighting religious and economic rights.

In a two-page memo, the nation’s top cop gave the clearest indication yet of the kind of battles federal prosecutors are likely to focus on. In doing so, Barr suggested the Department of Justice (DOJ) might back church groups and those seeking a swifter economic reopening while staying on the sidelines of fights over new limits on abortion and voting access.

“It’s extremely likely that the DOJ will play favorites,” said Lindsay Wiley, a law professor at American University. “I think it’s accurate to assume that DOJ will not intervene in a neutral way, but will instead intervene on behalf of plaintiffs asserting rights the administration favors.”

Barr on Monday directed the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys to “be on the lookout” for health restrictions that could be running afoul of constitutional rights and “if necessary, take action to correct them.”