Democratic mayors and other leaders of some large cities have grown edgier in opposing President Donald Trump’s push to use federal agents to quell violence, using terms such as “resist” and “fascist.”
Some elected Democrats in affected cities have vowed to sue and even arrest federal agents as they criticize federal action to protect government property in Portland, Oregon.
For “Operation Legend,” the White House has announced plans to send federal law enforcement officials to Chicago; Kansas City, Missouri; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Over the next three weeks, the Justice Department intends to expand the effort into Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee.
Democratic mayors and other leaders in these and other cities mostly object, according to news reports.
Trying to meet with demonstrators Wednesday night in Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler was booed and told to resign by the crowd and overcome by tear gas deployed by federal agents to control the situation. Wheeler said he was “pissed off” and called the situation “flat-out urban warfare” wrought by the president.
Cities across the nation have seen various levels of unrest and violence since the May 25 death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who heads one of America’s most violent cities, previously opposed intervention by federal officials. However, after Trump’s announcement Wednesday of “Operation Legend,” Lightfoot offered a more diplomatic comment.
“I’ve been very clear that we welcome actual partnership,” Lightfoot said. “But we do not welcome dictatorship. We do not welcome authoritarianism, and we do not welcome unconstitutional arrest and detainment of our residents. That is something I will not tolerate.”
Leo Schmitz, chief of public safety at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, attended the White House event Wednesday announcing “Operation Legend.” His jurisdiction includes Chicago.
Before his announcement on putting down violent crime in cities, Trump had mentioned the possibility of sending federal law enforcement to New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, and Oakland, California, which are among U.S. cities with the highest crime rates.
“I’m going to do something—that I can tell you,” Trump told reporters Monday in the Oval Office. “Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these—Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”
That same day, Philadelphia officials provided some of the most aggressive rhetoric, even threatening to arrest federal officials in the city, making fascist comparisons, and vowing to “resist.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said: “My dad volunteered and served in World War II to fight fascism, like most of my uncles, so we would not have an American president brutalizing and kidnapping Americans for exercising their constitutional rights and trying to make America a better place, which is what patriots do.”
“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,” added Krasner, who was elected in 2018 with the help of a super PAC funded by liberal billionaire George Soros. “It’s the least we can do to honor those who fought fascism, including those who are fighting it even now.”
In another interview with Democracy Now, Krasner said:
These are Pennsylvania offenses over which the district attorney in Philly has jurisdiction over that area, and we can bring those charges. The law is very clear. We can proceed with those charges in state court. Under certain circumstances, they might end up being processed in federal court. But, initially, we can bring those charges. We can pursue them. And as much as possible, we can put those individuals in front of a Philadelphia jury, who might have something to say about those tactics. …
I would say President Trump is definitely a wannabe fascist. I’m not sure he can spell the word, but he definitely is someone who’s in love with dictators.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney didn’t push back quite as hard, but still resisted the idea of federal law enforcement assistance.
“The president’s threat is wrong on many levels,” Kenney said. “To send federal agents to police U.S. 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.”
“While the city of Philadelphia has not received any formal notification that federal agents will be sent here,” the mayor said, “we would use all available means to resist such a wrongheaded effort and abuse of power.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the city would sue to keep federal law enforcement out, Fox News reported.
“I want to be very, very clear that we will not allow this to happen,” de Blasio said, adding: “We are New Yorkers and we won’t take lightly if we see federal officers in New York City. If we do, we’ll be in court.”
Trump said “Operation Legend” is named for 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro of Kansas City, who was shot and killed in late June. His killer hasn’t been found.
Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith was among those attending the White House event Wednesday where Trump announced the operation.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, however, called the law enforcement initiative “dog-whistling.”
“What we don’t support is an expanded and broadened mission, which is what we’ve seen in Portland and what we’ve seen hinted at in interviews from the president that look like a federal takeover of policing in Kansas City,” Lucas said, according to The Kansas City Star.
Sheriff Manuel Gonzales of Bernalillo County, New Mexico, a top law enforcement official in the Albuquerque area, also attended the White House event.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, however, told CNN that the law enforcement operation is “about inciting violence.”
“You almost know that something is up because one, the president is talking about Albuquerque, which doesn’t usually happen,” Keller said, “but two, we’ve been told nothing and usually we get formal MOUs [memos of understanding], we get details, there’s task forces that are put in place. We have received no formal documentation on this at all.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said a federal presence would be divisive, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.
“With few exceptions, protests in Milwaukee have been peaceful,” Barrett said in a statement. “It is preposterous to suggest Milwaukee needs federal agents to quell unrest or manage peaceful protests. Their presence at this time could be counterproductive.”
After Trump named Cleveland as one city that would get assistance from federal law enforcement, Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration told the Plain Dealer newspaper that it “has not been made aware of any additional federal law enforcement resources coming to the city.”
“The Cleveland Division of Police has in the past and will continue to partner with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to combat violent crime in our neighborhoods,” the statement reads. “In [December], the Division of Police announced the Relentless Pursuit initiative, which is designed to combat violent crimes in our neighborhoods with our federal, state and local partners.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told local media: “Early on, we made the decision [that] the bond between the Detroit Police Department and the community was strong enough we could handle the protests ourselves.”
Separately, Duggan issued a joint statement with Detroit Police Chief James Craig opposing federal assistance, which said:
There could be no possible justification for such an action. The Detroit Police Department has had the support of the Detroit community in making sure our city did not have a single store looted or a single fire started during the protests.
Unlike nearly every other major city in the country, the Detroit Police Department never requested assistance from the National Guard–we handled our issues as a community. We definitely have no need for any federal presence being sent in now.
Although Trump mentioned Baltimore earlier this week, a spokesman for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young told the Baltimore Sun that the city had no indication that the Trump administration had moved on any plans to send federal law enforcement.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf accused Trump of trying to distract Americans from COVID-19.
“I don’t need law enforcement in Oakland; I need testing, I need personal protective equipment,” Schaaf said. “We need direct income support for people who are out of work, that’s what we need. This president seems to confuse a political bent.”