The point man for President Trump’s controversial crackdown on racial justice protests boasted that his agents “proactively” arrest suspects as the White House prepares to expand the operation to Chicago and elsewhere.
Chad Wolf, the acting Department of Homeland Security chief, claimed he has the right to clear protesters off the streets, whether there is evidence of any potential crimes or not.
“We are having to go out and proactively arrest individuals,” Wolf said during an interview on Fox News. “And we need to do that because we need to hold them accountable.”
Wolf also emphatically defended Trump’s contention that federal authorities have the right to unilaterally carry out law enforcement in cities, even when local and state elected authorities ask them to stay away.
He called it “ridiculous” to suggest they should abide by the longstanding rules against involving federal troops in domestic law enforcement.
“You need to hold individuals accountable,” he said. “When we don’t do that, I think we get what we see in Portland today.”
The feds have dubbed the plan “Operation Legend” named for LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy who was shot and killed in his sleep on June 29 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Trump has also threatened to send federal officers, which normally guard the border and handle drug and weapons offenses, into other cities including Chicago, Albuquerque, and other cities experiencing a spike in violent crimes across the U.S.
In Portland, Oregon, the influx of federal troops supposedly tasked with defending a federal courthouse at the beginning of July, has dramatically inflamed the situation on the ground.
A protester was hospitalized this month with critical injuries after a U.S. Marshals Service officer struck him in the head with a round of less-lethal ammunition. Anger flared again over the weekend after video surfaced of a federal agent hitting a U.S. Navy veteran repeatedly with a baton while another agent sprays him in the face with pepper spray.
Crowds had recently numbered fewer than 100 people but swelled to more than 1,000 over the weekend, again attracting a broader base in a city that’s increasingly unified and outraged.
Among the protesters was Mardy Widman, who watched demonstrations against racial injustice unfold in her hometown for weeks but stayed away because, at 79, she feared getting coronavirus.
When Trump sent in federal officers, that changed: A masked Widman took to the street Monday with other Portland residents.
“It’s like a dictatorship,” Widman, a grandmother of five, said, holding a sign that read: “Grammy says: Please feds, leave Portland.”
Trump plans to send about 150 Homeland Security Investigations agents to Chicago to help local law enforcement deal with a spike in crime, an official with direct knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
The Trump administration also has sent more than 100 federal officers to Kansas City to help quell a rise in violence after the shooting death of a young boy there.
It’s not obvious what an operation against street crime has to do with defending federal courthouses or monuments, which is Trump’s original justification for the crackdown.
“We welcome actual partnership,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “But we do not welcome dictatorship.”