US President Donald Trump lauded Monday a heavy-handed federal crackdown on Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon, vowing to replicate the controversial effort in other US cities.
Trump said federal officers have done “a fantastic job” in the city, which has seen sustained daily protests following the fatal arrest of George Floyd in May, further framing demonstrators as “anarchists.”
“Portland was totally out of control,” he told reporters during remarks in the Oval Office. “The level of corruption and what was going on there was incredible.”
Trump continued to heap scorn on city and state leaders, saying the Democratic city mayor and state governor “had no idea what they were doing.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler demanded Friday federal “troops” remain inside their buildings, telling Trump the alternative is having “them leave our city.”
He later said the buildup of heavily militarized law enforcement personnel has escalated tensions in the Pacific northwestern city.
“Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism,” he said during a CNN interview Sunday. “And it’s not helping the situation at all. They’re not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave.”
He described the tactics being employed by federal officers as “abhorrent.”
“People are being literally scooped off the street into unmarked vans, rental cars, apparently. They are being denied probable cause and they’re denied due process,” he said.
He was referring to scenes that have been captured on camera from Portland appearing to show unmarked officers seizing demonstrators from city streets seemingly at random before throwing them into vans and driving away.
The officers have also repeatedly used tear gas on protesters, and early Monday morning used the substance after protesters set a fire in the portico of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, a flashpoint of the demonstrations.
Authorities had erected a fence to keep protesters from reaching the building, but they breached it around 9 p.m. local time, according to Portland police, which maintained they have not been engaging with crowds there.
Democratic lawmakers led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney co-signed a letter demanding a probe into the federal tactics.
“The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appear to have increasingly abused emergency authorities to justify the use of force against Americans exercising their right to peaceful assembly,” they said in their letter to the inspectors general of the Justice and Homeland Security department.
“The Administration’s insistence on deploying these forces over the objections of state and local authorities suggest that these tactics have little to do with public safety, but more to do with political gamesmanship,” they wrote.
Undeterred by the backlash, Trump said he is “looking at” replicating the crackdown in other metropolises, including Chicago and New York City.
“I’m going to do something. That I can tell you, because we’re not going to let New York, and Chicago, and Philadelphia, and Detroit, and Baltimore; Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country,” he said.
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