As flares of violence and destruction have disrupted largely peaceful demonstrations against police brutality over the past two weeks, federal and state officials have warned that members of extremist groups are at work behind the scenes.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Thursday the Justice Department had evidence that “extremist agitators” were hijacking protests to “pursue their own separate and violent agenda”—an assertion he and President Trump have repeated throughout the national unrest. Minnesota officials described…

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