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AP analysis: Most arrested in US protests aren’t leftist radicals

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With President Donald Trump driving a narrative of antifa-driven violence in U.S. cities, Washington law enforcement reporters Colleen Long and Mike Balsamo, and Boston’s Alanna Durkin Richer, all of whom covered the protests that have rocked the nation since May, set out to determine who had actually been arrested. They scrutinized the arrest records of every person charged in federal court with protest-related crimes, delivering an important accountability story that showed the Trump administration’s claims of leftist-incited violence during racial unrest were overblown.

The trio read through thousands of pages of court documents and sifted through 286 federal cases where people were charged with federal crimes of violence. They found only one mention of antifa and very few cases of organized extremism.

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A demonstrator uses a bullhorn to shout slogans next to a group of military veterans during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, Ore., July 26, 2020. – AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez

They also called dozens of lawyers, activists and sources to determine what was going on behind the numbers, finding an effort by the Department of Justice to pursue cases that normally would be handled in the state systems, and exaggeration by the president of the danger posed to the public. The team’s reporting undercut claims that left-wing extremists were running rampant in American cities.

On a busy news day, the story received outstanding play. Axios led with the piece, it had strong customer use and online engagement, and it appeared on the front pages of at least a dozen newspapers.

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