After Portland, Trump Threatens to Send Federal Agents to Oakland and Other Cities 'Run by Liberal Democrats'

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Tear gas is fired by the police on Broadway near Oakland Police headquarters on May 29, 2020 during a protest over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Oakland was among the half dozen major U.S. cities that President Trump said Monday would soon see “more federal law enforcement,” while lauding the recent deployment of federal agents in Portland, Oregon.

The Hill posted the comments Trump made to reporters from the Oval Office.

“We're not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We're not going to let this happen in our country,” Trump said, before noting that all of those cities are “run by liberal Democrats.”

Trump went on to say that federal officers have done a “fantastic job” in Portland. “No problem,” he said. “They grab 'em — a lot of people in jail. Their leaders — these are anarchists, these are not protesters.”

Unsurprisingly, the response from Oakland leaders has been fast and furious.

“People have a constitutional right to protest,” East Bay Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee responded on Twitter. “Stay away from Oakland.”

In a quickly issued statement, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said, “Oakland needs COVID relief — not troops — from our President. He should stop slandering diverse, progressive cities like Oakland in his racist dog whistles and divisive campaign tactics."

Trump's comments come after Oregon Public Broadcasting last week reported unidentified federal agents in camouflage and tactical gear firing tear gas and non-lethal rounds at demonstrators in Portland, and pulling some protesters into unmarked vans, in an effort to quell the city's more than 50 consecutive nights of protests against racism and police brutality.

Following outcry from Portland city officials and the governor, Oregon's attorney general filed a lawsuit Friday accusing officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other federal agencies of violating the constitutional right of protesters, OPB reported.

"Ordinarily, a person exercising his right to walk through the streets of Portland who is confronted by anonymous men in military-type fatigues and ordered into an unmarked van can reasonably assume that he is being kidnapped and is the victim of a crime," the lawsuit states.

The U.S. Justice and Homeland Security departments did not respond to requests for comment. But a recent DHS press release accused "violent anarchists" of laying siege to a federal courthouse over the weekend and shooting fireworks at the building, "attempting to injure or kill federal officers." The perpetrators also "attempted to blind federal officers by targeting their eyes with laser weapons," according to DHS statement.

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Unlike in Portland, Bay Area demonstrations against police violence have subsided in recent weeks.

“We are not experiencing any civil unrest right now," Schaaf said in her statement. "But I can think of nothing more likely to incite it than the presence of Trump-ordered military troops into Oakland.”

The Oakland Police Department "has not, nor would we, request federal assistance to address crowd management within our city," a department spokeswoman said in an emailed response.

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But the exact role of the 175 federal agents that Trump threatened to deploy is unclear. In his remarks Monday, Trump cited spikes in violent crime in New York and Chicago. Oakland, too, has seen a rise in homicides and shootings compared to this time last year, according to the Police Department.

Federal assistance for violent crime investigations is nothing new. The FBI, for example, has long assisted OPD with homicide investigations. But that's a different role than crowd management, and arresting people for vandalism is unlikely to affect murder rates.

California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris was among seven U.S. lawmakers who introduced legislation Monday to curtail some of the federal enforcement tactics seen in Portland.

The legislation, introduced as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, would require federal officers to be clearly identified and limit their crowd control activities to federal property. It would also require public notice within 24 hours when agents are deployed, including the reason for their deployment.

“Donald Trump is ordering unidentified law enforcement to violate Americans’ civil rights,” Harris said in a statement. “These actions are those of an authoritarian regime and do not represent who we are as a nation. I call on my colleagues in the Senate to pass this measure immediately — we are better than this.”