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House Freedom Caucus meeting in the Capitol

Congressional Republicans from the House Freedom Caucus on Thursday held an event to attack the protest movement that has risen up against racism and police violence following the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his throat for more than 8 minutes while Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), chair of the caucus, called on federal prosecutors to utilize the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act against protesters. RICO was passed to in the 1970s, originally to target the Mafia.

"Our U.S. attorneys need to be prosecuting cases," said Biggs. "We can look at RICO, the racketeering laws apply to many in this case. "

"We have laws on the books that prohibit organized crime. The kind of organized crime that we're seeing from BLM [Black Lives Matter]," claimed Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), adding, "We are seeing organized crime in the hands of Antifa, who are organizing efforts around the United States and organizing this activity that is causing criminal behavior."

Since protests first began in late May, Republicans have repeatedly alleged that anti-fascist activists, under the name "antifa," are behind various crimes, but the Department of Justice has said recent arrests for violence are not connected to anyone involved with antifa.

Black Lives Matter, which was founded in 2013 following the acquittal on the man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, says its goals are to end white supremacy and state-sanctioned violence against the Black community. No local chapters of Black Lives Matters are known to be involved in organized crime.

Still, the recent protests — not all of which have been organized by Black Lives Matter groups — were described by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) as part of a "Marxist crime wave" that is part of a wide-ranging plot to create a "Bolshevik" style revolution in America.

"This kind of insurrections can start small," said Gohmert, warning that events in America could follow in the path of revolutions in "Venezuela, Soviet Union, China."

The rhetoric at the event echoed Donald Trump, who has repeatedly tweeted about "LAW AND ORDER" and spoken out against the protests.

"Very sad to see States allowing roving gangs of wise guys, anarchists & looters, many of them having no idea what they are doing, indiscriminately ripping down our statues and monuments to the past," Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

The next day, Trump referred to comments made on Fox News by Hawk Newsome, president for Greater New York Black Lives Matter, as "Treason, Sedition, Insurrection!"

"If this country doesn't give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it," Newsome told the network. " I could be speaking figuratively, I could be speaking literally. It's a matter of interpretation."

Trump has frequently claimed people he disagrees with have committed "treason" for such supposed crimes as not applauding him and presenting evidence against him that led to his eventual impeachment.

In response to Trump's attack, the ACLU of New Jersey tweeted, "No, it's not. It's a metaphor. And it's First Amendment protected speech."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.