Chicago to Get More Fed Aid Without Portland-Style Deployment


The Trump administration isn’t expected to deploy troops to Chicago the way it did in Portland, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday. Instead, more resources will be directed to federal law enforcement’s existing agencies in the city.

Chicago will get new help for the local offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Drug Enforcement Administration, Lightfoot said. The U.S. attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, will help manage the effort.

“There has been a lot of saber rattling” by the president and his team, Lightfoot, a Democrat, said during a news conference Tuesday. “I’ve been very clear that we welcome actual partnership, but we do not welcome dictatorship. We do not welcome authoritarianism. And we do not welcome unconstitutional arrest and detainment.”

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice plans to announce an expansion of Operation Legend to Chicago, according to an administration official. The program is a more traditional law enforcement approach, in which more federal agents are sent to a city to work in cooperation with local law enforcement to fight violent crime. If the situation changes from additional resources to a deployment of federal agents such as in Portland, Lightfoot said the city plans to rush to court to block such a move.

Concerns over federal troops come as the nation’s third-most-populous city grapples with a surge in violence. In the 28 days through July 19, Chicago recorded almost 400 shooting incidents, up 89% from the same period last year, and 116 murders, nearly triple the same period in 2019, according to police data.

In a letter to Trump on Monday, Lightfoot said she wants more resources to invest in communities and to prevent problems such as gun violence and those exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. She and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker are among leaders of several states and cities that have pushed back on Trump’s suggestion that federal law enforcement should patrol their streets.

Trump has reiterated that he wants more such officers in cities including Chicago, Philadelphia and New York after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent personnel to Portland to protect federal property during protests. It’s a law-and-order push that is facing strong opposition from local officials.

Federal Surge

The federal surge to address unrest in Portland has been led by the department, which has authority to protect federal buildings such as a courthouse at the center of the protests there.

Trump has conflated protests with elevated crime rates gripping some of America’s major cities, and pledged generally to send in forces to quell unrest. But Portland’s situation is distinct from Chicago’s. Operation Legend is being led by the Department of Justice. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Tuesday that Portland is the only city where his agency is fielding special operations.

In Portland, tensions between federal agents and protesters prompted state officials to sue the Trump administration. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday also said he would take the issue to court if the Trump administration sent agents.

Pritzker called any move to send federal agents to his state “wrong headed.” The Democratic governor said Monday that he’s “working closely” with Lightfoot and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to prevent “egregious attempts from Washington to trample their rights.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to prevent them from coming, and if they come we are going to do everything from a legal perspective to get them out,” Pritzker said in response to questions at an event in Collinsville, Illinois, on Tuesday.

Suppressing Protests

Raoul said he’s also conferred with Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum about the response of the state and Portland to the deployment of federal agents. While there are appropriate uses of federal law enforcement resources in Chicago, he said potential violations of constitutional rights concern him.

“The federal government certainly should not use Chicago’s existing fight against violence as a pretext to deploy federal agents in order to suppress lawful protests and violate our residents’ constitutional rights,” Raoul said in an emailed statement.

A Chicago Police Department spokesperson said local and federal law enforcement agencies already work alongside each other “toward the common goal of keeping Chicago residents safe.”

“If federal agents are deployed, it is critical that they coordinate with the Chicago Police Department and work alongside us to fight violent crime in Chicago,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Reverend Michael Pfleger, a community activist and pastor at St. Sabina Church on the city’s South Side, said Trump should send federal money for local law enforcement to combat gun violence and drug trafficking, not handle street protests like in Portland.

“We don’t need more military policing, what we need is getting to the root of the anger and the root of the injustice,” Pfleger said. “We saw what he did in Portland was a disaster.”

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