A Black Lives Matter protester arrested during riots in Washington over the weekend had also attended riots in Kenosha and Portland, police said Monday, as the Justice Department announced it would be probing whether organizations are paying individuals to move across the country.
Seattle-based Jeremy Vajko, 27, was arrested on Saturday night amid clashes between law enforcement officers and rioters. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, he drove recklessly near the Hay-Adams Hotel and drove “into a crowd of over 100 individuals.”
Vajko, who reportedly worked for Microsoft until May, was released from jail on Sunday and his charges have since been dropped. He has insisted that his “Snack Van” is used to hand out food and water and to help transport medics.
“The van is just full of free water, food, and medical supplies for the homeless and protesters,” Vajko tweeted Thursday. “I even gave water to the people that destroyed my van.”
Washington Police Chief Peter Newsham said during a press briefing on Monday with Mayor Muriel Bowser that Vajko’s van had been sighted previously in during clashes in both Portland, the nexus of the riots, and Kenosha.
“There was a van that was driving recklessly, potentially could have hit pedestrians and officers in the area,” Newsham said of Saturday’s incident in the nation’s capital, without mentioning Vajko’s name.
“We have intelligence to suggest that van was also at some of the violence we saw in Portland, Oregon, and some of the violent activity we saw in Kenosha,” he said.
The police chief noted that his officers are being assisted by the federal government to investigate whether there is “an organized, funded attempt to create violence in our city.”
“This isn’t just Washington, D.C. We’ve seen violence in other cities and to the extent that that is coordinated, us in law enforcement, we have a responsibility to find out if it is and then answer that question ‘Who?’—and hold them accountable,” Newsham said.
He said that 70 percent of individuals arrested in recent days were from outside Washington, D.C. Bowser noted that weapons were brought into the capital by “outside agitators” to “destroy property in the District.”
John Sherock, a Wisconsin resident who runs his own cleaning service, told me he was appalled by the recent #KenoshaRiots.
“I see darkness. I think its really wrong.. people are coming from other cities and destroying those cities. Those arrested were mostly all out of state.” pic.twitter.com/WfGCikfhcQ
— Bowen Xiao (@BowenXiao_) September 2, 2020
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Chad Wolf said late Monday that the heads of organizations believed to be behind the recent riots in the United States are being probed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
DOJ officials are “also targeting and investigating the head of these organizations, the individuals that are paying for these individuals to move across the country,” Wolf added, without specifying which groups.
Wolf said many of those arrested in Kenosha, Wisconsin, were from outside the city.
“So we know they’re moving around, we’ve seen them in D.C., in Sacramento, and elsewhere. We know they’re organized. We have seen similar tactics being used from Portland and other cities across the country as well,” he said.
A White House spokeswoman told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement: “The president is highlighting questions that need answers such as who may be funding travel and lodging for organized rioters. For example, violent rioters in Kenosha who were arrested hailed from 44 different cities. An investigation is underway to determine who is funding these organized riots happening across the country.”
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.