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Military personnel have tear-gassed protesters and used unmarked vehicles to detain people since arriving in Portland, Ore., at the Trump administration’s direction last week — an intervention local officials say is unnecessary and unwanted.
On Monday, the president threatened to deploy similar federal law enforcement teams to Philadelphia and a slew of other major U.S. cities.
Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration confirmed it would oppose federal intervention, as did District Attorney Larry Krasner.
“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,” Kenney said in a statement.
Philadelphia has not received any formal notice that federal agents are en route, the mayor said, adding that his administration “would use all available means to resist such a wrong-headed effort and abuse of power.”
The president’s comments come nearly two months into ongoing protests against systemic racism and police brutality, which have spread across the nation and globe as the Black Lives Matter movement picks up steam.
A couple of the early demonstrations in Philadelphia were followed by vandalism and destruction as tensions boiled over. They spurred what the city has admitted was an inappropriate response by police, including tear-gassing of residential streets and of trapped civilians expressing their First Amendment rights — actions that further strained already tense community-police relations.
Since the first week of June, there have been near-daily rallies and marches in Philly, and nearly all proceeded without violence or property destruction.
“We’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and all of these — Oakland is a mess — we’re not going to let this happen in our country,” Trump said Monday from the Oval Office.
Up until recently, the federal government has provided backup for local law enforcement at the request of municipalities. The Pa. National Guard stationed troops in Philadelphia for over a week at the beginning of June. Kenney said he approved that at the request of local businesses who sought protection from property damage.
In his Monday statement, Kenney said sending in federal agents would “only impede the work of local governments and exacerbate already heightened tensions in these cities.”
That’s currently playing out in Portland, where the Trump administration decided to insert itself into the ongoing demonstrations — against the will of local officials. Portland leaders have asked the president repeatedly to let them handle their situation, saying the military presence only serves as a powderkeg to sew chaos.
Federal authorities are “sharply escalating the situation,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism.”
“People are being literally scooped off the street into unmarked vans, rental cars,” Wheeler added. “Apparently, they are being denied probable cause, and they’re denied due process. They don’t even know who’s pulling them into the vans.”
In a statement, District Attorney Larry Krasner indicated he would seek criminal charges against any federal agent who “unlawfully assaults and kidnaps people” in Philadelphia.
The Trump administration approved dispatching Customs and Border Protection to Portland last week — one of many “rapid deployment teams” being formed under the president’s executive order to protect monuments, statues and federal property.
The militarized unit in Portland was not specifically trained in riot control or handling mass demonstration, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by the New York Times.