As monuments fall across the county, FBI agents are watching every move from a secure room in Washington D.C.Fox News was granted exclusive access
As monuments fall across the county, FBI agents are watching every move from a secure room in Washington D.C.
Fox News was granted exclusive access to the FBI Strategic Information Operations Center (SIOC) inside the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building. Agents inside are monitoring trends in vandalism, from San Francisco to Boston.
“The violence and destruction of property that we’ve been seeing in certain parts of the country is illegal and it needs to stop now,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told Fox News from inside the SIOC.
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Wray says his criminal and counterintelligence teams are working together to respond to current threats while stopping any future ones. Agents are constantly monitoring social media channels for any potential discussion of future hotspots.
“The FBI recognizes the rights of our American citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Assistant Director Calvin Shivers said. “However, when it crosses into a leaflet of illegal activity, it’s something that we have to address.”
The FBI team in Washington is working with local law enforcement agencies across the country.
“We fully expected — going into the last couple of weeks — that individuals to include extremists would take advantage of Americans exercising their right to peacefully protest and sort of, what I would call, hijack that for their own personal, opportunistic acts of committing criminal activity or violence,” Assistant Director Jill Sanborn said.
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In some cases, city officials removed statues. Other times, crowds took control, pulling down statues like the monument to Confederate General Albert Pike, which was toppled before being set on fire in Washington D.C.
Wray said his job is to strike the right balance.
“Equal justice is essential. But violence and destruction of property is not the way to ensure it,” Wray said. “And to the extent that there’s a federal nexus involved in that conduct, people need to understand that the FBI will take steps to investigate and hold the wrongdoers accountable.”
And officials are asking the public for tips, if they see anything.
“We need people, communities, family members, friends, et cetera,” said Sanborn. “If you see something — a person getting ready to mobilize and do something criminal or violent in our cities against our monuments and against our peaceful protesters — share that with us. We want to ensure that Americans have the right to exercise their right to peacefully protest safely.”