On Monday, President Donald Trump said he plans to send law enforcement to more U.S. cities. His announcement follows an ongoing crackdown on Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Ore., in which federal agents have used tear gas to defend federal buildings and have taken activists into custody without explanation.
Trump listed New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland, Calif., as cities where federal agents should be deployed, noting that the cities’ mayors were all “liberal Democrats.”
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church in Chicago — where 30 percent of the city's population is Black according to the United States Census Bureau — condemned Trump’s plan.
“Donald Trump’s threat to deploy federal officers to Chicago is a clear indication he is infected with COVID-1619, America’s oldest untreated disease, better known as racism,” Moss told Sojourners. “As a community, we will resist such unconstitutional action by any morally rooted means we deem necessary. We are a city of grit, grind and resistance, unafraid to speak truth to power; don’t get in the ring with people from the Chi if you don’t want to witness a community organized to fight.”
The Chicago Tribune intially reported that the Department of Homeland Security was planning to deploy around 150 agents to the city this week after local police escalated a protest at the Christopher Columbus monument in Grant Park on Friday. On Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot — well-known for blasting Trump on Twitter — announced that Trump will not send “troops” to Chicago but will instead bolster federal agencies that work with the police and U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch, Jr. Chicago’s mayor welcomed the agents but warned that her administration will remain vigilant.
Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, has been criticized for rejecting demands to defund the Chicago Police Department, which currently has a budget of $1.7 billion.
State and local leaders in Oregon, as well as members of Congress, called for Trump to remove the forces after videos showed unidentified federal agents rounding up people and taking them away in black minivans.
The state of Oregon and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the Trump administration for unlawfully detaining residents.
“The tactics that the Trump administration are using on the streets of Portland are abhorrent,” the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, told CNN. “People are being literally scooped off the street into unmarked vans, rental cars, apparently. They are being denied probable cause. And they are denied due process. They don't even know who's pulling them into the vans. The people aren't identifying themselves. And, as far as I can see, this is completely unconstitutional.”
Despite national outcry over the tactics, Homeland Security officials on Monday said they would not back down or apologize.
Rev. Dr. Leslie Callahan of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia told Sojourners that Trump’s administration has demonstrated an unwillingness and incompetence in providing federal coordination and assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The fact that he is inventing occasions to deploy troops and divert resources reveals his fascist and authoritarian tendencies, and represents a pathetic attempt to make news to detract from his failures, which led to 150,000 coronavirus deaths,” Callahan said. “We didn’t ask for a stunt. We didn’t ask for troops. We asked for PPE, testing capacity and a plan to suppress the virus. Since the President made it clear that he doesn’t care to govern, we’ll continue to work with our people for the well-being of our community.”
Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, said the country is “reaping what we’ve sown” when it comes to Trump’s foreign policy and treatment of immigrants.
“We are seeing in real time the wisdom and warning of Dr. King that if we allow injustice to live in one place, it will ultimately also hunt us down in our own place,” Tyler said. “We must not allow this to continue. We must resist and continue to push back. We must stand in solidarity with protesters in Portland, in Chicago, and Louisville, all of whom are being mistreated right now.”