President Trump threatened Monday to send federal law enforcement officers into New York City to “grab” protesters who “hate our country” after squads of feds in tactical gear conducted similar sweeps in Portland, Ore.
The Portland arrests have prompted widespread outrage and accusations of authoritarianism, but Trump told reporters at the White House that the controversial crackdown was “fantastic” and said he’ll likely order similar responses in other cities “run by liberal Democrats,” including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore.
“More federal law enforcement, that I can tell you. In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job. No problem, they grab them, a lot of people in jail,” Trump said. “These are people that hate our country. We’re not going to let it go forward.”
Over the past week, federal officers decked out in military gear have been seen on video arresting protesters in Portland and hauling them away in unmarked vans.
In many cases, arrestees and witnesses have said it hasn’t been clear why the arrests were conducted. The federal officers, meanwhile, have not worn badges identifying which agencies they’re from.
In one instance over the weekend, a U.S. Navy veteran peacefully protesting in Portland was beaten so hard by a federal officer that his hand broke.
Democrats, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, say the federal response could be unconstitutional since arrests must be based on probable cause.
In light of Trump’s Monday threat, Mayor de Blasio echoed Wheeler’s sentiment.
“New Yorkers and the NYPD know how to keep this city safe,” de Blasio said in a statement. “What federal agents are doing in Portland is unacceptable and it has no place in New York.”
The Portland protests are part of anti-police brutality demonstrations that continue to sweep the nation over the death of George Floyd.
Some protests have turned violent, including in the Big Apple, where several NYPD officers were injured last week in skirmishes with demonstrators near the Brooklyn Bridge.
But Democrats say the military response embraced by the Trump administration sets a dangerous precedent.
Concerned by what she described as the administration’s “secret police” efforts, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill Monday afternoon that would require federal law enforcement officers to identify their name, agency and badge number on their uniform at all times.
“Secret police snatching Americans off of street corners and shooting rubber bullets at peaceful demonstrators is something we would expect to see in an authoritarian state ... Yet, that is our current reality,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
With Shant Shahrigian
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