Civil War

More federal agents deployed to protests

The president brushed aside claims the officers are depriving people of their constitutional rights

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US PRESS GROUP

Update:

DHS to send 150 federal agents to Chicago

The department of homeland security reportedly intends to send 150 federal agents to Chicago, a development that will likely intensify activists’ concerns about Trump attempting to circumvent local Democratic leaders to crack down on recent protests against racism and police brutality.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to Chicago this week, the Chicago Tribune has learned, a move that would come amid growing controversy nationally about federal force being used in American cities.

The Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents are set to assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter, though a specific plan on what the agents will be doing had not been made public.

Activists in Portland, Oregon, have expressed severe alarm over reports of federal agents using unmarked vehicles to detain peaceful protesters, and they have warned the administration may attempt to expand the strategy to other cities.

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Federal agents sent to confront protesters in Portland have “done a fantastic job” and could be deployed to other cities, Donald Trump said on Monday. The mayor of Portland has called for Trump to withdraw the federal agents, and the Oregon attorney general has filed a lawsuit seeking the same end. The governor and the state’s two senators, all Democrats, have also complained.

Speaking in the Oval Office, the president brushed aside claims the officers are depriving people of their constitutional rights, and concerns such deployments could herald an attempt by Trump to rule without Congress.

The largest city in Oregon has seen more than 50 nights of protest over police brutality and systemic racism, arising from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May.

Confrontations between law enforcement and protesters in Portland have led to fires and the use of teargas. Speaking to the Guardian and other outlets, protesters have reported violence by police and instances of people being seized by unidentified officers and held without due process.

Democrats in the US House of Representatives have demanded investigations, decrying “the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the attorney general and the acting secretary of homeland security to suppress first amendment-protected activities in Washington DC, Portland and other communities across the United States”.

In June, the Trump administration used federal officers against protesters in the capital, some of whom were forcibly dispersed so Trump could stage a photo op at a church. National guard troops were also used, and active duty army units moved closer to the city.

In Portland, local media has stressed that the protests are not paralysing the city and are confined to a small area, and that much of life continues as normally as possible under the coronavirus pandemic.

Nonetheless, at the White House Trump was asked if he would consider sending troops. It depended on the definition of troops, he said, adding: “We are sending law enforcement.”

Trump seemed to refer to such plans in a controversial Fox News Sunday interview. Talking about healthcare, the president said he would soon issue a plan “that the supreme court decision on Daca [regarding immigration enforcement and which went against the administration] gave me the right to do”.

It has been widely reported that the White House has been influenced by John Yoo, a former government lawyer who justified the use of torture by the George W Bush administration. Yoo argues the Daca ruling, which upheld Barack Obama’s executive order, shows Trump how to bypass Congress.

Many fear Trump, seeking to foreground law and order in an election in which he trails Joe Biden in most polls, will attempt to use federal agents against protesters and in cities in which gun violence has spiked.

On Monday, it was reported that agents were set to be sent to cities including Chicago. In the Oval Office, the president complained about cities including Chicago and his native New York.

“The police are afraid to do anything,” he said, though Portland police have reported some federal agents acting “under their own supervision and direction”, many while dressed in camouflage fatigues that make them look like regular troops.

Trump continued: “We’re not going to let New York and Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and all of these, Oakland in California is a mess, we’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.

“Nobody will have done what I’m doing in the next four weeks,” Trump told Fox News Sunday.

“We can’t let this happen in the cities. I’m going to do something, that I can tell you. We’re going to have more federal law enforcement … In Portland they’ve done a fantastic job, they’ve been there three days [and] have done a fantastic job.”

Describing actions against protesters which observers and officials have described as blatantly unconstitutional, Trump said: “No problem. They grab them, a lot of people in jail.

“These are leaders. These people are anarchists, they’re not protesters … These are people that hate our country and we’re not going to let it go forward.”

Claiming lawmakers in Oregon were “maybe even physically afraid” of the protesters, he added: “It’s worse than Afghanistan.”

Trump has sought to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan and other actual war zones.

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