15 mayors sign letter condemning use of federal forces to quell protests

The mayors said that federal agents were not making communities any safer


Federal agents use crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters near the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Image: AP Photo/Noah Berger

Update, July 22, 2020. The list of mayors condemning the deployment of federal law enforcement officers to U.S. cities is rising. Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Tuscon Mayor Regina Romero, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinburg and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego have now signed the letter as well.

Update, July 21, 2020. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has joined his fellow mayors in signing the letter to Attorney General Bill Barr and DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. “While we have no information that Boston is being targeted [by federal agents],” he tweeted, “I want to make it absolutely clear that it is not welcome in Boston.”

The Kansas City Star
By Katie Moore And Bryan Lowry

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As protesters demanding racial justice continue to fill streets across the country, the mayors of six major cities including Kansas City are objecting to the deployment of federal forces charged with quelling unrest.

Sending federal officers to local communities is “wholly inconsistent with our system of democracy and our most basic values,” the mayors wrote in a letter sent Monday to U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, along with the mayors of Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Portland, said federal agents were being deployed “for political purposes,” citing President Donald Trump’s “false and divisive rhetoric.”

Protests have flared since the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

The letter alleges that federal forces “snatched” a protester in Portland without proper identification and placed him in an unmarked vehicle. Another incident left a protester with a fractured skull.

The mayors said the federal agencies were not coordinating their efforts with local police and had not been not trained in urban community policing or de-escalation.

On Monday, the U.S. attorney in Kansas City said federal agents making arrests as part of a new operation to reduce violent crime will be clearly identifiable and will not resemble the operation playing out in Portland.

Dubbed Operation Legend after a 4-year-old who was fatally shot June 29, the U.S. Department of Justice’s initiative will send 225 federal agents to Kansas City.

Kansas City will always be willing to work with any level of government interested in productive, cooperative, community-based action to make our city safer,” Lucas said. “What we made clear to the United States Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General today is we will never welcome the unilateral deployment of federal forces — particularly unidentified Homeland Security forces — meant to intimidate and detain peaceful protesters exercising their right to make their voices heard.”

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a former Kansas City mayor, said the mayors’ concerns about the federal intervention are well-justified based on the reports from Portland.

“I think that the mayors have a legitimate concern when the information we receive particularly from the television medium is people wearing dark suits ... collecting people on the streets and taking them some place,” said Cleaver, D-Missouri, who compared what’s in Portland to the crackdown by the Chinese government against protesters in Hong Kong.

“We are in a situation right now where mayors around the country are understandably concerned that military trucks could pull into their community any day now without any notice and start arresting people,” he said.

Cleaver said he expects the Democratic-controlled U.S. House to launch an investigation soon, as the mayors requested, and he is hopeful that the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate will do the same.

Cleaver voiced frustration that he was not informed ahead of the White House announcement earlier this month that the Department of Justice planned to send federal law enforcement officials into Kansas City as part of Operation Legend.

He said the state’s two Republican senators, Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt, were also not told of the plan before its announcement. Lucas has previously said he learned of the plan on Twitter.

The federal government should communicate with those of us elected to represent the citizens of the state of Missouri,” Cleaver said.

On Saturday, hundreds of people marched through Kansas City demanding an end to Operation Legend. The protesters said a larger law enforcement presence will endanger Black people in the city. Instead, the protesters demanded a 50% cut to the Kansas City Police Department’s budget and for that money to be redirected to education, healthcare and other services.

Review the letter in full:

07.20.20 Letter to DOJ and DHS by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

(c)2020 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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