On Tuesday, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said that Joe Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland is attempting to weaponize the Department of Justice against parents who dare dissent from COVID directives from Washington. Garland is accused of using the FBI to investigate alleged threats of violence against school board members and government school employees across the country.
DeSantis wrote in a tweet that Garland is “using the FBI to pursue” parents of American schoolchildren and “silence them through intimidation.” The governor added that Florida will defend its citizens and “not allow federal agents to squelch dissent.”
On Monday, Garland issued a DOJ memorandum announcing that federal law enforcement will use its “authority and resources” to pursue threats of violence against government school officials. He instructed the FBI and all U.S. attorneys to coordinate with law enforcement officials in the next 30 days to develop plans to address “harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against government workers and officials in the education system.
In a separate statement, Garland emphasized the “threats” specified in his memo, leaving aside the much more broad and complex to define terms “harassment” and “intimidation.” He said that threats against school officials and employees are not only illegal but also “run counter to our nation’s core values.” Overlooked in his statement were the core values of free speech and the right to petition the government.
This week, Garland’s statements and directives respond to a letter sent to Joe Biden by the National School Boards Association alleging that government school officials are “under immediate threat.” The letter listed instances of parents addressing school boards in ways the government was displeased with and considers to be “intimidation” and “threats,” referring to them as examples of “domestic terrorism” and “hate crimes.”
DeSantis and others have countered that any illegal acts described in the association’s letter and Garland’s directive are already against the laws of every state. They believe that local law enforcement is in the best and most appropriate position to handle the prosecution of these crimes if and when they occur. They argue that the DOJ’s involvement is meant to intimidate parents, chill free speech, and dissent from government actions.