After numerous reports and lawsuits in Portland regarding un-badged and un-uniformed federal officers arresting, beating, and detaining people in unmarked vehicles, the Trump administration’s response is that they’re going to do it even more, and in more cities. Saying that his federal agents are doing a “fantastic job,” Trump has suggested that he will also deploy agents in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Milwaukee to do the same.
In one of those cities, the city prosecutor has already preemptively warned Trump’s police forces what he will do if they bring the same tactics to Philadelphia:
“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,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner in a statement. “Anyone, including federal law enforcement, who unlawfully assaults and kidnaps people will face criminal charges from my office.”
Trump claims the federal intervention is needed due to excessive violence, particularly around federal statues and monuments. But legal experts have said the reported federal actions in Portland far exceed legal boundaries.
“[T]he use of a secret federal paramilitary force in Portland (and soon Chicago and likely other cities) is every bit the abuse of power that it appears to be,” legal scholar Elizabeth Goitein, of the Brennan Center for Justice, wrote on Twitter, noting that Trump’s claim of protecting federal property is pure pretext for his intent to have federal agents do the work of local police.
Trump’s dare to deploy additional troops to more cities will test the mettle of reformist prosecutors like Krasner, who has aggressively pursued police reforms and taken steps to eliminate what he calls unethical and unconstitutional police practices that Trump has said he’d like to see more of.
A clash between local and federal law enforcement over how to manage protesters in Philadelphia — if it comes to that — would be unprecedented.