US protests

Trump sends federal forces to Democrat-ruled cities

The US president has said he will deploy federal forces to cities including New York and Chicago despite a backlash against response to Portland protests.

Trump sends federal forces to Democrat cities
JIM WATSON AFP

Amid ongoing protests across the US following the death in police custody of George Floyd in May and against the backdrop of a huge spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, Donald Trump has vowed to deploy federal agents in major cities he described as being run by the “radical left." The US president has already sent federal law enforcement units into Portland, Oregon, which has become one of the focal points of nationwide protests against police brutality.

Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday he was considering sending agents to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland, California, all controlled by what he termed “liberal Democrats.”

Trump has repeatedly used militaristic rhetoric against protesters despite the majority of demonstrations in the US being largely peaceful. In June, the president threatened to send the National Guard into Seattle to dismantle the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, set up by protesters across six blocks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood after police evacuated the local precinct.

That threat met with a sharp response from Democratic Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who termed it “illegal and unconstitutional.”

"There is no imminent threat of an invasion of Seattle,” she added.

Trump facing backlash over Portland tactics

A federal law enforcement officer pushes a mother back during a demonstration against the presence of federal law enforcement officers and racial inequality in Portland, Oregon.

Trump recently enacted an executive order to protect US memorials after statues of Confederate Civil War leaders were targeted by protesters and while there is little argument over the president’s legal ability to deploy federal forces to protect federal property, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Portland have been accused of overstepping their powers by detaining people without probable cause, not wearing identifying markings and making arrests outside of federal boundaries. The Oregon attorney general has filed a lawsuit as a result.

"We have a president who is determined to sow chaos and division. To make matters worse instead of better," Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Tuesday in response to the Portland deployment, accusing agents in Portland of “brutally attacking peaceful protesters.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf denied the accusations, stating: “We are only targeting and arresting those who have been identified as committing crime; all officers are identified as police law enforcement officers. They are not Gestapo as described.”

New York, Chicago mayors threaten to sue Trump

Both New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have said they will sue the Trump administration if agents are deployed on the president’s orders.

A Justice Department official later said Trump's announcement was referring to an initiative announced this month called "Operation Legend," which is not targeting cities like Portland facing civil unrest but focused on dispatching federal law enforcement agents into cities to help quell more "traditional" violent crime after a spate of shootings in Chicago last weekend.