President Donald Trump on Monday said he plans to send law enforcement personnel to some large United States cities, as a federal crackdown on anti-racism protests including use of unmarked cars and unidentified officers that appear to be in military gear, in Portland, Oregon angers people across the country.
“We’re sending law enforcement,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We can’t let this happen to the cities.”
Trump, a Republican, mentioned New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland, California, as possible places for sending in federal forces, noting the cities’ mayors are “liberal Democrats”. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot frequently blasts Trump on Twitter.
State and local leaders in Oregon, as well as members of Congress, meanwhile, have called for Trump to remove Department of Homeland Security from Portland. They were deployed prior to July 10.
“They’ve been there three days and they really have done a fantastic job in a very short period of time, no problem,” Trump said misstating how long the federal law enforcement officers have been in the historically liberal city to quell protests. “They grab a lot of people and jail the leaders. These are anarchists.”
Trump and members of his administration have blamed “Antifa“, a loosely organised grouping of left-wing protesters and activists who have been active in sometimes-violent protests since the alleged murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
While the violence has sometimes been deadly, the overwhelming majority of suspects belong to right-wing groups.
Trump has previously threatened to designate Antifa, which is short for “anti-fascists”, as a “terrorist organisation”, due to alleged violence caused by the “group”.
Federal officers last week began cracking down on Portland protests against police brutality and systemic racism, using tear gas and taking some activists into custody without explanation.
The tactics that the Trump administration are using on the streets of Portland are abhorrent,” Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, said in an interview with CNN.
Oregon has sued the federal government for the actions of unmarked officers in the city. Governor Kate Brown has asked the officers to leave.
This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government. https://t.co/PdlZkmW0mQ
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 16, 2020
Despite a national outcry over the tactics, Department of Homeland Security officials on Monday said they would not back down and would not apologise.
Acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli dismissed local leaders’ calls to leave the city.
“We will maintain our presence,” Cuccinelli said.