United States Marshals Service / Public domain

July 20, 2020; Chicago Tribune

With the president’s electoral hopes dimming, he is lashing out violently with whomever he can scrape up to do his bidding.

Yesterday, we reported on the alleged deployment of federal law enforcement agents into Portland, Oregon, to abduct protestors in that city. Today, there are reports that plans are already in place to deploy 150 federal agents into Chicago, and in the meanwhile, Trump threatened at a Monday press conference to send federal agents into New York, Detroit, Baltimore, Oakland, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia.

In Detroit, Governor Gretchen Whitmer responded in much the same way as officials in the other threatened locales: “Quite frankly, the president doesn’t know the first thing about Detroit.”

“If he did,” she says, “he would know that for nearly two months now, Detroiters have gathered to peacefully protest the systemic racism and discrimination that Black Americans face every day. There is no reason for the president to send federal troops into a city where people are demanding change peacefully and respectfully.”

In Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney released the following statement:

The president’s threat is wrong on many levels. To send federal agents to police US cities that have not requested such aid can only impede the work of local governments and exacerbate already heightened tensions in these cities. And to target cities that are led by Democratic mayors is clearly a politicization of federal resources that should outrage all taxpayers.

That the White House seeks to impose federal involvement in this way, after months of abrogating its responsibility to lead a federal response to COVID-19, is both ironic and offensive. While the City of Philadelphia has not received any formal notification that federal agents will be sent here, we would use all available means to resist such a wrong-headed effort and abuse of power.

And Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner says, “Anyone, including federal law enforcement, who unlawfully assaults and kidnaps people will face criminal charges from my office. At trial, they will face a Philadelphia jury. It’s the least we can do to honor those who fought fascism, including those who are fighting it even now.”

The motivation behind the threat to inflict violence on those exercising their First Amendment rights is obvious, if only because the president has stated it explicitly. On Sunday, Trump tweeted, “The Radical Left Democrats, who totally control Biden, will destroy our Country as we know it. Unimaginably bad things would happen to America. Look at Portland, where the pols are just fine with 50 days of anarchy. We sent in help. Look at New York, Chicago, Philadelphia. NO!”

Readers may recall that military leaders made their unwillingness to be deployed against lawful protestors quite clear last month after a bizarre attack on peaceful protestors in Lafayette Square was carried out with the apparent intention of allowing the head of state to cross the street to stand in front of a church with Bible in hand as a photo op.

Apparently, the federal agencies allowing themselves to be aimed at our own communities have no such compunctions. In Portland, the agents appear to have been attached to the US Marshals Special Operations Group and an elite US Customs and Border Protection team based on the US-Mexico border to protect federal property, reportedly using unmarked vans to detain protestors—grabbing them off the streets without identifying themselves.

Meanwhile, even as the role of police associations has been highlighted by activists, at least one is egging the president on.—Ruth McCambridge