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Trump announces 'surge' of federal agents to US cities

July 23, 2020

The US president has made good on a threat to send more federal troops to combat unrest in major US cities. "Operation Legend" will see hundreds of agents deployed to Chicago and other urban centers.

US President Donald Trump
Image: Reuters/L. Millis

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he will "surge" hundreds of federal law enforcement officers to quell violence in cities around the US, despite resistance from local politicians.

"We have no choice but to get involved," Trump said in a press conference in Washington, D.C. He said the move would help communities "plagued by violent crime."

Around 200 federal police officers are to be sent to Chicago and 30 more to Albuquerque, New Mexico as part of "Operation Legend," US Attorney General Bill Barr said. Some 200 federal police are already in Kansas City in the state of Missouri.

'Worse than Afghanistan'

Trump on Monday had threatened to send paramilitary-equipped federal police units to Chicago and other cities. He characterized the situation in Chicago as "worse than Afghanistan."

Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot condemned the idea, saying she would not allow federal forces on her city's streets.

"Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump's troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our citizens," Lightfoot wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Chicago has noted a steep rise in homicides in 2020. Police data show some 414 murders so far this year, a rise of around 50% compared to the same time last year. Most recently, a shootout at a funeral on Tuesday left at least 14 people injured.

Accusations of excessive force in Oregon

In Portland, Oregon, sometimes-destructive protests against racial injustice prompted by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police have been met with brutal tactics from federal forces deployed there. 

Top Oregon officials have decried what they characterize as an excessive use of force. Attorneys on Wednesday called for a restraining order against federal agents in Portland, who they have accused of arresting protesters without probable cause.

Us federal law enforcement officers deployed at a protest in Portland, Oregon
US federal law enforcement officers in Portland, OregonImage: Reuters/C. Ochs

The Democratic mayors of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Washington wrote a letter to Barr opposing the deployment of federal agents in their cities.

Barr on Wednesday said the federal officers would be working with the local police and were not part of the riot control unit deployed in Portland.

kp/nm (AFP, dpa)

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