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Democratic mayors accuse federal agents of escalating violence against civilians

Democratic mayors in Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, Portland, Kansas City, Mo. and Washington, D.C., condemned federal agents dispersing protesters in their cities, in letters to congressional leadership and the Trump administration on Monday.

What they're saying: "Deployment of federal forces in the streets of our communities has not been requested nor is it acceptable," the mayors write to Attorney General Bill Barr and Chad Wolf, acting Homeland Security secretary.


  • "In Portland, their actions have escalated events and increased the risk of violence against both civilians and local law enforcement officers," they write.
  • "None of these agents are trained in modern urban community policing, such as de-escalation. They are operating without coordination with local law enforcement," the mayors say, urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top congressional leaders to investigate what they describe as the administration's "abuse of power."

The other side: "DHS is not gonna back down from our responsibilities. We are not escalating, we are protecting, again, federal facilities. It's our job, it's what Congress has told us to do, time and time again," Wolf told Fox News on Monday.

  • "The local leaders there in Portland have fostered this environment that allows these individuals to, again, attack the courthouse and do these very violent acts, destructive acts ... we're gonna investigate, and we're gonna arrest them, and we have the authority to do that," Wolf said, when a Fox anchor raised a report from Oregon Public Broadcasting that DHS officers were taking protesters into unmarked vehicles without explanation.
  • The DHS and DOJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Between the lines: Cities across the U.S. last month began to bend to pressure from Black Lives Matter demonstrators and scaled back the force that officers can use on civilians.

  • That new surge of police reform efforts, including bans on tear gas and rules on body cameras, has no affect on federal forces — and are rendered moot for protests overseen by federal agents.
  • "In many of our cities, our communities have expectations for law enforcement, including identification of officers, training, and recorded body camera footage, among many other expectations and policies," the mayors write.

The bottom line: The president has the authority to activate federal troops as domestic law enforcement under the Insurrection Act when those forces are used to protect federal property, enforce federal law, or put down insurrections that threaten federal laws or rights, "whether or not a state has requested the help," per the Washington Post.

Go deeper: Rand Paul denounces use of federal force in Portland

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