The supposed presence of “drug trafficking organizations” at protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death justified the use of “escalated force” at the demonstrations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection claimed in a memo revealed Wednesday.
There’s not any evidence to back up that claim in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News.
Nonetheless, at the top of an incident report dated Tuesday, the Homeland Security agency said that “due to nefarious actors and drug trafficking organizations using these protests as façades, there have been incidents where law enforcement (LE) officials have needed to respond with nonlethal and escalated force — incidents including the use of pepper spray, riot shields, and rubber bullets.”
The claim came two days after the Justice Department signed off on a Drug Enforcement Administration plan to act as federal law enforcement at the protests outside of the agency’s usual narcotics activities.
Notably, that authorization, first reported by BuzzFeed News, asserted that “the federal crimes being committed in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death are largely not drug-related.” The DEA asked for and received authority to pursue non-narcotics crimes, claiming that its “ability to assist our counterparts is limited” otherwise.
The CBP memo’s claim is similar to one made by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) on Saturday. The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month triggered the ongoing protests across the country. But Walz asserted that “the cartels, who are wondering if there was a break in their drug transmissions, are trying to take advantage of the chaos.”
“That’s why this situation is on a federal level,” he said.
The state’s public safety commissioner, John Harrington, cited reports to “national sources” that “drug cartels that were directing their resources to restore their drug markets in some of the areas that had been looted and some of the businesses that had been operating by them.”
The pair didn’t cite any evidence of that activity and, like CBP on Thursday, did not return TPM’s request for comment.