President Trump is sending federal law enforcement into cities he claims are being overrun by violence -- even as local officials tell him the officers are not needed or welcome. Many of the agents are dressed in military-style gear that obscures their identity, and their treatment of peaceful protesters has drawn criticism and sparked backlash. Yamiche Alcindor reports.
The investigation announced today over the use of federal force in Portland and elsewhere came as many cities pushed back on the president's actions and plans.
A number of mayors said the administration is crossing a line and abusing its role and power.
Yamiche Alcindor has the latest.
President Donald Trump:
We want to make law enforcement stronger, not weaker. What cities are doing is absolute insanity.
President Trump is surging federal law enforcement into cities he claims are being overrun by violence. The push includes officials from a number of agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Justice Department.
It comes as the president is ramping up his law and order rhetoric, in the lead-up to the November election. Here he is at the White House yesterday:
We will work every single day to restore public safety, protect our nation's children, and bring violent perpetrators to justice.
We have been doing it, and you have been seeing what's happening all around the country. We have just started this process, and, frankly, we have no choice but to get involved.
He said he plans to send federal agents into cities like Albuquerque and Chicago. Local officials, though, say they are not necessary and not welcome.
For several weeks, DHS agents have already been out in force in Portland, Oregon. They have faced fierce backlash as they clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters. The officers are dressed in camouflage, and are heavily armed with equipment, like shields, rifles and batons. They wear custom identification numbers, but not their names.
Protesters and local officials, including the mayor, have criticized the federal use of force. Video shows agents pulling protesters into unmarked vehicles.
Last night, federal law enforcement tear-gassed the crowd, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. It was the 56th consecutive night of protests in Portland, most of them peaceful. But near the federal courthouse, tensions have been high.
One person throws a water bottle, and they start throwing tear gas at us and shooting us with rubber bullets and pepper bombs.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf says the agents are protecting federal property, specifically the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse. Some protesters have covered it in graffiti, and have attempted to set it on fire.
Today, on CBS, Wolf defended the law enforcement's presence and response.
Acting Sec. Chad Wolf:
When we are there to protect the federal courthouse, we have that responsibility, given to us by the United States Congress. We are on that federal property and we are protecting that federal property.
But while the Trump administration says deploying federal agents and officers will curb unrest, federal statistics about the most violent cities do not necessarily match the president's focus.
According to analysis by 24/7 Wall Street, using 2018 FBI data, Alaska had the most violent crimes per 100,000 residents. That state was followed by New Mexico and Tennessee. And 38 percent of violent crime occurred in the South.
Still, the president has focused much of his attention on sending federal agents to Chicago. But Chicago activist Jahmal Cole says the move won't be unhelpful.
Adding more cops is not the solution. The solution is supporting people that are on the ground, helping them expand what they're doing into broader strategies, right? That's what we need in Chicago.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.
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Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; the moderator of Washington Week, the weekly public affairs show on PBS; and a political contributor for NBC News and MSNBC. She often tells stories about the intersection of race and politics as well as fatal police encounters. She is currently covering the administration of President Joe Biden and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
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