Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., is calling on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate “criminal groups” involved in rioting during the recent Kenosha demonstrations.

Steil’s opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Democrat Roger Polack, said federal agents are already investigating acts of arson during the protests, and Steil is lying about the tragic events for political gain.

“Many of the criminal agitators came from outside our community of Kenosha,” Steil said in a news release. “Thanks to our federal and local law enforcement agents, the U.S. Marshals and Kenosha Police Department successfully stopped out-of-state protestors whose van was filled with fireworks, helmets and gas masks. Criminals must be held accountable, and we must look into their source of funding.”

Polack said Steil knows that those in the van were part of the group Riot Kitchen, which serves food to protesters, and had no involvement with the Kenosha unrest because they were arrested before they got there.

Steil did not name any criminal groups. He also did not mention the killing of two protesters by an Illinois teenager who faces murder charges.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analyzed the arrests of 250 people during the protests, including about 10 from the Seattle-based Riot Kitchen, none of whom have been charged with looting or arson.

Protests erupted in Kenosha in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a Kenosha police officer Aug. 23. Blake was paralyzed from the waist down.

Steil called for the investigation to be extended to rioters nationwide.

“I am confident that by targeting the funding and leadership of these criminal groups we can prevent future violence in Kenosha and around the country,” Steil wrote in his letter to Barr.

Polack noted the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was investigating the Kenosha arsons before Steil wrote to Barr.

“He is manipulating this tragedy for self gain, and I think he should be ashamed of himself,” Polack said. “He should stop taking credit for the good work of those who de-escalated the situation in Kenosha, those that continue to investigate and those that are focused on healing. ...

“And of course to the extent federal laws were broken, those responsible should absolutely be investigated and tried, and that’s already happening,” Polack said.

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