A few dozen anti-police protesters chanted ‘Fascist out’ as they rallied outside the Virginia home of Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to demand the removal of federal agents from Portland, Oregon, and other cities.
Demonstrators chanted slogans like ‘Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?’ and demanded the defunding of police as they rallied in the suburban town of Alexandria, Virginia, on Sunday morning.
The demonstration comes as Wolf blasted Democrats on Sunday for ‘sanctioning rioting’ and violence against law enforcement.
‘As part of a national call to action we’re calling for a march and rally at Chad Wolf’s house in Alexandria, Virginia on Sunday, July 26th at 10am to demand that Trump’s troops be removed from every city,’ read the notice from ShutDown DC.
‘Please meet us at Preston Rd and Valley Drive. We’re calling for ICE to be abolished.
‘We’re calling for every person detained by CBP to be freed.’
Protesters in front of acting DHS Sec. Chad Wolf’s home in Alexandria, VA. Calling for defunding police, DHS, etc. “Whose the big bad Wolf? Is one of their favorite chants. pic.twitter.com/VQgc4uEC0j
Fox’s Maria Bartiromo asks acting DHS sec. Chad Wolf: “Why can’t you just arrest the leadership in Portland because of their ignoring what’s really happening on the ground?” (h/t @npr_matrix) https://t.co/MMcp1LWCF7 pic.twitter.com/j09tyPC5mZ
The Trump administration has pledged to expand its use of DHS officers in cities across the country.
Demonstrations have happened in Oregon’s largest city nightly for two months since George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in the custody of police in Minneapolis in May.
Trump said he sent federal agents to Portland to halt the unrest but state and local officials say they are making the situation worse.
Civil liberties advocates were outraged last week by video images of masked federal agents who were heavily armed and clad in tactical gear with no identifiable badges or insignia taking a protester into custody and hauling him away in an unmarked van.
Local officials in Portland, including the mayor, governor, and the attorney general, have demanded that federal agents leave the city. But the administration has refused to pull them out.
‘We will not retreat,’ Wolf said in a press conference on Tuesday. ‘We will continue to take appropriate action.’
The acting secretary defended the federal agents, saying: ‘They’re not military or civilian police officers. These police officers are not storm troopers. They’re not the Gestapo.’
The Gestapo is a reference to the official secret police used by Nazi Germany against its enemies throughout Europe in the years leading up to the Second World War.
During an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, Wolf blasted Democrats for failing to condemn violence against law enforcement.
‘We are standing up for law and order and anyone who says otherwise is not being accurate,’ he said.
‘I will say that the other side that wants to criticize law enforcement, what they don’t do, they do not condemn these acts of violence in Portland.
‘I have talked to a number of Democratic members of Congress and all but one, only one has asked me about the health of my officers.
‘All they want to do is condemn law enforcement for doing their job. And, again, very irresponsible.’
Since federal agents have been deployed to Portland, the situation appears to have escalated.
Authorities declared a riot early on Sunday in the Rose City, where protesters breached a fence surrounding the city’s federal courthouse building where US agents have been stationed.
Police described via Twitter the ‘violent conduct of people downtown’ as creating a ‘grave risk of public alarm.’
Police demanded people leave the area surrounding the courthouse, around 1:20am on Sunday, and said that those who fail to adhere may be arrested or subjection to teargas and impact weapons.
By 1:40pm, both federal officers and Portland police could be seen on the streets, surrounding the courthouse, attempting to clear the area and deploying teargas.
Protesters remained in the streets past 2:30am, forming lines across intersections and holding makeshift shields, as police patrolled and closed blocks abutting the area.
Multiple arrests were made, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many.
President Trump announced on Wednesday that he will send federal agents to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to help combat rising crime, expanding the administration’s intervention into local enforcement as he runs for reelection under a ‘law and order’ mantle.
Using the same alarmist language he has employed to describe illegal immigration, Trump painted Democrat-led cities as out of control and lashed out at the ‘radical left,’ which he blamed for rising violence in some cities, even though criminal justice experts say it defies easy explanation.
‘In recent weeks there has been a radical movement to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police department,’ Trump said at a White House event, blaming the movement for ‘a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.’
‘This bloodshed must end,’ he said. ‘This bloodshed will end.’
The decision to dispatch federal agents to American cities is playing out at a hyperpoliticized moment when Trump is grasping for a new reelection strategy after the coronavirus upended the economy, dismantling what his campaign had seen as his ticket to a second term.
With less than four months until Election Day, Trump has been warning that violence will worsen if his Democratic rival Joe Biden is elected in November and Democrats have a chance to make the police reforms they have endorsed after the killing of George Floyd and nationwide protests demanding racial justice.
Crime began surging in some cities like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia when stay-at-home orders lifted.
Criminal justice experts seeking answers have pointed to the unprecedented moment: a pandemic that has killed over 140,000 Americans, historic unemployment, a mass reckoning over race and police brutality, intense stress and even the weather.
Compared with other years, crime in 2020 is down overall.
The plan Trump announced Wednesday expands an existing program that sent hundreds of federal agents to Kansas City, Missouri, after a 4-year-old boy’s shooting death to help quell a record rise in violence.
Sending federal agents to help localities is not uncommon; Attorney General William Barr announced a similar surge effort in December for seven cities with spiking violence.
But this effort will include at least 100 Department of Homeland Security Investigations officers who generally conduct drug trafficking and child exploitation investigations, in addition to personnel under the Justice Department umbrella.
DHS officers have already been dispatched to Portland and other localities to protect federal property and monuments as Trump has lambasted efforts by protesters to knock down Confederate statues.
Local authorities there have complained that agents have exacerbated tensions on the streets, while residents have accused the government of violating their constitutional rights.
Indeed, civil unrest escalated after federal agents were accused of whisking people away in unmarked cars without probable cause.
Since the racial justice protests began, Trump’s campaign has leaned heavily into a pledge to maintain ‘law and order’ as it has tried to tie Biden to a small group of radicals and anarchists it claims is trying to destabilize America’s cities and rewrite history.
The campaign believes the push can help Trump by drumming up support from suburban and older voters who may be rattled by violent images.
In Chicago, Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who had initially blasted the news, said the US attorney’s office will supervise the additional agents joining existing federal law enforcement offices.
‘If those agents are here to actually work in partnership on support of gun violence and violent cases, plugging into existing infrastructure of federal agents, not trying to play police in our streets, then that’s something different,’ she said, while also accusing the president of trying to distract from scrutiny of the federal response to the pandemic.
In New Mexico, Democratic elected officials had cautioned Trump against sending in federal agents, with Senator Martin Heinrich calling on Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales to resign for attending the White House event.
‘Instead of collaborating with the Albuquerque Police Department, the Sheriff is inviting the President’s stormtroopers into Albuquerque,’ Heinrich said in a statement.
Wolf drew a distinction between the mission in Portland – to protect federal property – and the surges in Kansas City, Chicago and Albuquerque to help stop violence.
Albuquerque and Chicago will be getting millions of dollars for new officers, and the Justice Department will reimburse Chicago $3.5million for local law enforcement’s work on the federal task force.
In Kansas City, the top federal prosecutor said any agents involved in an operation to reduce violent crime in the area will be clearly identifiable when making arrests, unlike what has been seen in Portland.
Hundreds of extra agents have been sent.
‘These agents won’t be patrolling the streets,’ US Attorney Timothy Garrison said.
‘They won’t replace or usurp the authority of local officers.’
Operation Legend – named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was fatally shot while sleeping in a Kansas City apartment last month – was announced on July 8.
‘My one and only child who fought through open heart surgery at four months is gone due to senseless gun violence,’ LeGend’s mother, Charon Powell, said at the White House.
‘Children are supposed to be our future and our son didn’t make it to kindergarten.’