WASHINGTON - Amid the growing outrage over the tactics used by the Trump administration against protesters in Portland, the president doubled down on his plans to use federal agents where there have been demonstrations, suggesting “more federal law enforcement” would be deployed in cities including Oakland.
Oakland police said Monday that they have not asked for federal assistance.
“I’m gonna do something. That I can tell you,” he said to reporters in the Oval Office on Monday, "because we’re not gonna let New York, and Chicago, and Philadelphia, and Detroit, and Baltimore... Oakland is a mess. We’re not gonna let this happen in our country,” he declared.
People in Oakland protest the death of George Floyd.
He said that the cities were run by “liberal Democrats” and that elected leaders in these regions were not only weak but afraid of the demonstrators, whom Trump described as anarchists who “hate our country."
“I'll tell you what, the governor, and the mayor, and the senators out there, they’re afraid of these people. That’s the reason why they don’t want us to help them. They’re afraid. I really believe they’re actually maybe even physically afraid of these people,” Trump said. “Yes they’re weak but they’re afraid of these people. They’re actually afraid of these people, and that’s why they say we don’t want the federal government helping.”
In a tweet, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wrote, "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."
The mayor noted that there was no civil unrest in Oakland at the moment but that the presence of federal officers "would likely incite it."
On Monday, Oakland Police Department issued a statement saying they did not, nor would they ask for federal assistance when it comes to crowd control of the "peaceful" protests and demonstrations they've seen over the last month or so.
A police spokesperson said they would like to continue to provide a safe space for the community for these types of gatherings in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.
"OPD, like all cities in California, is part of the State of California Mutual Aid Incident Command System (ICS). We work through our Regional Coordinator for any requests for regional assistance if Mutual Aid is needed," Officer Johnna Watson, an OPD spokesperson said.
A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against OPD a month ago from using tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators after tear gas was deployed at a youth-led march.
Trump also applauded the controversial actions taken by unidentified federal agents deployed to Portland. “They’ve done a fantastic job. They’ve been there 3 days and they really have done a fanatic job in a very short period of time,” the president said, commending their efforts to detain demonstrators. “No problem. They grab them, lot of people in jail. They're leaders,” he said.
Oakland civil rights attorney Walter Riley said, "To grab people on the street, it slightly reminds me of the rendition programs that were being used to pick up claimed terrorists around the world."
On Friday, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum sued Homeland Security and the Marshals Service in federal court over the recent events. The complaint said unidentified federal agents have grabbed people off Portland’s streets “without warning or explanation, without a warrant, and without providing any way to determine who is directing this action.”
PORTLAND, OR - JULY 17: Federal officers prepare to disperse the crowd of protestors outside the Multnomah County Justice Center on July 17, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. ((Photo by Mason Trinca/Getty Images))
Rosenblum said she was seeking a temporary restraining order to “immediately stop federal authorities from unlawfully detaining Oregonians.”
Over the weekend, lawmakers expressed outrage and called on federal inspectors general to investigate.
“This is a matter of utmost urgency,” wrote House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, D-Mississippi, and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-New York, in a letter to the inspectors general of Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.
The Democratic lawmakers are seeking an investigation “into the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the Attorney General and the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security to suppress First Amendment protected activities in Washington, D.C., Portland, and other communities across the United States.”
Unrest continued in Portland over the weekend. Federal officers and Portland police advanced simultaneously on demonstrators to clear the streets early Saturday, making arrests as protesters threw bottles and pieces of metal fencing.
The action by Portland’s police was condemned by Jo Ann Hardesty, a prominent member of the City Council. Hardesty said Saturday that local police “joined in the aggressive clampdown of peaceful protest.”
In a statement Saturday, Portland Police said as they responded to the overnight protests some federal agencies took action “under their own supervision and direction.” Portland Police said city officers arrested seven people, and one officer sustained a minor injury.
The Associated Press contributed to this story, which was reported from Oakland, Calif.