After more than a week of unrest, tensions in a number of major U.S. cities has eased. The vandalism and looting that had often used large, peaceful protests as cover has faded; the eruption of violence at protests appears to be less common. The Associated Press reports that active-duty members of the military who were moved into Washington to help keep order would be moved back out, though that decision was later reversed.
But it wasn’t only components of the Defense Department that had been brought to the nation’s capital to help with the “domination” that President Trump sought to display in the wake of the turmoil. Washington residents have also been confronted with a number of other heavily armed law enforcement officers who share an unexpected characteristic: Neither their affiliation nor their personal identities are discernible.
On Tuesday, Mother Jones reporter Dan Friedman encountered these individuals, who gave no more specific identification than that they were associated with the Justice Department.
So did the New Republic’s Matt Ford. When he asked the armed men if they were associated with the Bureau of Prisons based on an acronym on their uniforms, Ford was simply told, “Maybe.”
As it turns out, each of these encounters was apparently with elements of the Bureau of Prisons, called to the region by Attorney General William P. Barr this week. Friedman confirmed with BOP that the men he encountered were with the agency; Haake’s Twitter followers picked out BOP insignia on their clothing.
“The idea that the federal government is putting law enforcement personnel on the line without appropriate designation of agency, name, etc. — that’s a direct contradiction of the oversight that they’ve been providing for many years to local police and demanding in all of their various monitorships and accreditation,” former New York City police commissioner William Bratton said in a phone interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday.