The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intends to send around 150 federal agents to Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reported today. The plan is an escalation of the Trump administration's efforts to crack down on protests and unrest in major U.S. cities.
The planned deployment comes amid national backlash over the use of federal agents in Portland, Oregon, where news reports and videos have shown the feds beating a nonviolent Navy veteran, shooting an unarmed protester in the face with an impact weapon, and using unmarked vehicles to snatch protesters off the street. Last night, federal agents tear- gassed a crowd of moms.
Camouflaged agents from Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Marshals Service have been deployed to Portland—where protests and unrest over the police killing of George Floyd have been happening for more than 50 days—under a June 26 executive order to protect federal monuments and property. The Trump administration claims it is protecting the city's federal courthouse and other property from "lawless anarchists" who have vandalized and attacked the building.
In a news conference this morning, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she spoke with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on Sunday "to get a sense of what's happened there."
"We don't need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the street and holding them I think unlawfully," Lightfoot said.
Federal agents' strong-arm tactics in Portland have led to a flurry of lawsuits, investigations, and demands for investigations from state and local officials. Colleen Connell, head of the Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), warned that similar problems will arise in Chicago.
"Make no mistake: Trump's federal troops will not be a constructive force in Chicago," Connell said in a press release. "As our colleagues have seen in Portland, Trump's secret forces will terrorize communities, and create chaos. This is not law and order. This is an assault on the people of this country, and the specific protections of protest and press in the First Amendment."
The ACLU of Oregon sought a temporary restraining order last week against federal agents stationed in Portland, in what it says is the first of many lawsuits.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced Sunday that she is suing DHS, the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Protection Service, alleging that "they seized and detained Oregonians without probable cause."
The U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon—Billy Williams, a Trump appointee—has called for an inspector general to investigate the agents' actions.
Oregon's Democratic senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, say they'll be introducing an amendment to a defense bill to stop the Trump administration "from sending its paramilitary squads onto America's streets."
Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) also criticized the use of federal agents.
We cannot give up liberty for security. Local law enforcement can and should be handling these situations in our cities but there is no place for federal troops or unidentified federal agents rounding people up at will. https://t.co/vkSHmlOzDW
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 20, 2020
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D–D.C.) will also be introducing legislation this week that would require federal law enforcement officials to clearly identify themselves, The Nation reported today.
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. But in an interview on Fox News this morning, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said, "I don't need invitations by the state, state mayors, or state governors to do our job. We're going to do that, whether they like us there or not."
Trump also indicated in a White House interview today that his administration may send federal agents to many more U.S. cities.
"We're not going to let New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore—Oakland is a mess—we're not going to let this happen in our country," Trump said. "More federal law enforcement, that I can tell you."
"In Portland, they've done a fantastic job," Trump continued. "These are anarchists. These aren't protesters. These are people that hate our country, and we're not going to let it go forward."