Across immigration, policing, criminal justice, and voting rights, the attorney general is pushing an agenda that could erase many of the legal gains of modern America's defining movement.
The fires on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, had barely stopped burning when the Department of Justice released an extraordinary report on the city’s police department. In the findings of the 2015 investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division detailed how a municipality had built its social contract on a slow-rolling racist heist. Activists hoped that the Ferguson report—which was prompted by the 2014 police killing of an unarmed black teenager and found that police conduct had “severely damaged the relationship between African Americans and the Ferguson Police Department”—would not only change the city, but would signal that the United States was finally willing to confront the legacy of white supremacy. The Ferguson City Council reluctantly agreed to a consent decree with the DOJ that would overhaul city policing. Federal courts rejected voter-suppression schemes and reaffirmed affirmative action. Movements from Black Lives Matter to LGBTQ advocacy saw an opportunity to broaden the national civil-rights agenda.