Civil liberties advocates condemned Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednesday (July 22) promising that a “surge” of federal officers will soon swarm Democratic-run cities, including Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, The Guardian reports. 

Trump made this controversial move as unidentified federal officers continue to target peaceful protesters in Portland with tear gas, violence and arrests. As Vox reports, Portland has been completely upended by the agents, who have occupied the city since early July. The state’s governor, state senators, Portland’s mayor and city commissioners want these raging officers to leave the area immediately. 

Reports Vox:

…federal officers are roaming the streets of Oregon’s biggest city in unmarked vehicles, detaining protesters without identifying themselves.

Multiple reports and videos clearly show heavily armed federal law enforcement officers dressed in camouflage stepping out of unmarked civilian vans and forcibly detaining anti-racism and anti-police brutality demonstrators on the streets of Portland, often far away from any federal property (where federal officials have jurisdiction). In many instances, those taken into custody hadn’t clearly violated any laws.

After several days of fear and confusion as reports of these mysterious activities piled up, the Trump administration acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had officers from Border Patrol and other agencies use unmarked vehicles in Portland last week to protect federal property, namely a federal courthouse in the heart of the city, which has been tagged by graffiti and had a small fire and broken windows.

Late Tuesday (July 21) federal agents in Portland used batons and tear gas to push back a group of mothers who linked arms and called themselves a “wall of moms” as they chanted “Don’t shoot your mother,” The Washington Post reports. “Dozens were tear-gassed,” according to The Post. “Some were hit with less-lethal bullets fired into the crowd.”

Trump’s announcement Wednesday to expand federal law enforcement into more American cities “renewed fears of an expanding state security apparatus threatening the rights of peaceful demonstrators,” The Guardian reports.

“Today, I’m announcing a surge of federal law enforcement into American communities plagued by violent crime,” Trump said while speaking at the White House. “We’ll work every single day to restore public safety, protect our nation’s children and bring violent perpetrators to justice.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded with a tweet stating, “We will continue to defend our constitutional rights from Trump’s lawlessness—in Portland, Chicago, and wherever else necessary.”

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot has taken a strong stance against Trump’s plan to intervene in her city’s affairs. “Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump’s troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our residents,” she tweeted on Tuesday.

According to The Guardian, Trump, on the other hand, said Lightfoot welcomes federal law enforcement in Chicago. ”Mayor Lightfoot sent me a letter yesterday, and I think, in their own way, they want us to go in,” The Guardian reports Trump saying. “There’ll be a time when they’re going to want us to go in full blast, but right now we’re sending extra people to help. We’re arresting a lot of people that have been very bad.”

The Guardian reports, 

The president has linked the growing violence in the streets with protests against racial injustice in what critics say is a ploy to stoke fears in predominantly white suburbs. Experts in criminal justice say the rise in crime is more complex, especially in the context of the coronavirus pandemic and economic slump.

The unrest in Portland only grew after federal agents in camouflage were seen taking people away in unmarked cars without probable cause. Several lawsuits have been filed questioning the federal government’s authority to use broad policing powers in cities.

Democratic mayors of 15 cities sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr and acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf condemning the use of federal agents in American cities. According to The Guardian, “In their letter, the mayors say that the federal officers are conducting law enforcement activity with no consultation with local police in tactics they likened to ‘authoritarian regimes’ not in the U.S.”

“Federal officers have not been trained for urban community policing, including critical crowd management and de-escalation techniques. There is no oversight of the actions of federal forces,” the letter stated. It was signed by mayors of Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and a group of other cities.