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Trump: Federal agents policing major US cities ‘have to be invited’

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  • President Donald Trump said he had tens of thousands of federal agents available to domestically police major US cities, citing the “fantastic” job they have been doing in Portland, Oregon.
  • “I view this as one of, if not the most alarming thing this administration has done,” Barry Friedman, a law professor and faculty director of New York University’s Policing Project, told Business Insider.
  • “It’s alarming because it is placing what are effectively federal troops in a municipal policing capacity in violation of the constitutional laws of the United States.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday that he had tens of thousands of federal agents at the ready to deploy to major US cities but he noted they “have to be invited in.”

Barry Friedman, a law professor and faculty director of New York University’s Policing Project, which works with communities to ensure democratically accountable and transparent policing, echoed Trump’s point: He needs the consent of the state to send in federal agents.

“The jurisdiction of the federal government is quite limited for domestic policing and to be doing so aggressively in a jurisdiction where they are not welcomed by local leadership is both inappropriate and unconstitutional,” Friedman told Business Insider.

“I view this as one of, if not the most alarming thing this administration has done,” he continued. “It’s alarming because it is placing what are effectively federal troops in a municipal policing capacity in violation of the constitutional laws of the United States.”

Federal law enforcement officers are already present in Portland, and Trump announced Wednesday that he was deploying a “surge” of DHS agents to other US cities, including Albuquerque and Chicago, as part of “Operation Legend,” designed to “answer the pleas of those crying for justice and crying for help.”

However, citing the actions in Portland, state governors and mayors of major US cities have slammed the move in anticipation of the agents’ arrival.

“If the Trump administration wishes to antagonize New Mexicans and Americans with authoritarian, unnecessary, and unaccountable military-style ‘crackdowns,’ they have no business whatsoever in New Mexico,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.

Still, Trump told Hannity that “we’ll go into all of the cities, any of the cities. We’re ready.”

“We’ll put in 50,000, 60,000 people that really know what they’re doing,” Trump said. “They’re strong. They’re tough. But as you know, we have to be invited in.”

Generically identified federal agents arrived in the city of Portland, and reports linked them to controversial arrests of protesters and civilians with no explanation as to why they were being detained.

2020 07 23T000034Z_2_LYNXNPEG6L1O0_RTROPTP_4_GLOBAL RACE PROTESTS PORTLAND.JPG

Federal agents in Portland have been accused of detaining and beating innocent bystanders.

Reuters


Oregon lawmakers have pushed back against the presence of federal forces policing the city, and the Oregon attorney general and the American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits against the federal government for allegedly violating protesters’ rights while policing the city.

Without a specific invitation from the state or city, the Trump administration has grounded the legal justification of federal law enforcement in Oregon as protecting federal property, which is within their power. However, according to reports, federal agents are alleged to have gone beyond their duties, making arrests and engaging in other policing well beyond the boundaries of federal monuments and property.

Cristina Rodriguez, a Yale Law School professor specializing in constitutional and administrative law, said it is “highly atypical for federal law enforcement to enter a city or a state where they haven’t been invited by the governor or the mayor,” especially if there hasn’t been a “clear breakdown in the state’s authority or ability to handle whatever might be happening.”

“I think the bigger point in this moment is that, as a matter of practice, federal law enforcement doesn’t come to engage in general policing unless the state government or local government has invited it,” she said, citing the example of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992.

The National Guard and federal agents were mobilized amid civil disturbances, city-wide riots, and violence at the behest of then-Gov. Pete Wilson and then-Mayor Tom Bradley.

“There’s definitely a breach of ordinary practice from what it seems, watching from afar,” Rodriguez said of the escalating situation in Portland.

Similar to the legal situation behind the Rodney King riots, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that federal troops would be arriving in the city to help it combat gun violence, which has been on the rise in the city in recent weeks. She added the agents will not be engaging with protesters.

“Unlike what happened in Portland, what we will receive is resources that are going to plug in to the existing federal agencies that we work with on a regular basis to help manage and suppress violent crime in our city,” Lightfoot said, according to a WLS report.

“I don’t put anything past this administration, which is why we will continue to be diligent and why we will continue to be ready,” Lightfoot said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “If we need to stop them and use the courts to do so, we are ready to do that.”

Laurence Tribe, a law professor at the Harvard Law School, excoriated the motives behind the “deliberately vague terms” behind deploying federal agents to major US cities.

In an email to Business Insider, Tribe wrote that the situation “would have been utterly unthinkable to those who fought a bloody revolution and founded a republic to preserve the ‘blessings of liberty,’ to those who gave ‘the last full measure of devotion’ to preserve the Union, or to those who sacrificed their lives in two World Wars to keep authoritarian regimes from our shores.”

“To call this astonishing takeover of the streets and spaces for peaceful protest unconstitutional is a dramatic understatement,” Tribe wrote in the email. “And the cynicism of those disguising these moves in the garb of essential peacekeeping, which might well succeed for some time in holding judicial relief at bay, is especially disgusting.”

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