Oakland passes measure to block federal officers ahead of possible deployment

President Trump has said federal officers could be coming to Oakland as they're set to withdraw from Portland


By Brett Simpson
San Francisco Chronicle

OAKLAND, Calif. — In response to President Trump’s threats to deploy federal officers to Oakland, the City Council on Tuesday unanimously supported a measure to protect protesters from federal agents — just a day before the Trump administration agreed to withdraw officers from Portland, Ore.

The measure, introduced by councilmen Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo, directs City Attorney Barbara Parker and City Administrator Ed Reiskin to take “any and all lawful necessary steps” to stop federal forces from acting against protesters as they have since early July in Portland, which has become the scene of daily altercations between civilians and camouflaged officers in what some are calling an unconstitutional overstep of federal power.

Black Lives Matter protesters march through downtown Oakland on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/ Christian Monterrosa)
Black Lives Matter protesters march through downtown Oakland on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/ Christian Monterrosa)

“Our city, across the board, from the most anti-police activists to the police chief herself are unified in saying that we don’t want, we don’t need, a bunch of federal agents coming to Oakland,” Kalb said. “We’ll do everything we can do in the law to make it as difficult as possible.”

President Trump ordered federal agents to Portland earlier this month with the stated mission of protecting federal buildings after protesters damaged statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. However, agents from Customs and Border Protections and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have clashed violently with Portland protesters, with some officers reportedly firing tear gas without cause and detaining protesters in unmarked vans.

On Wednesday morning, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced, “After my discussions with VP Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal troops from Portland.”

Nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racial inequities have followed the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, with most remaining peaceful but some leading to rioting and vandalism.

On July 21, Trump said he intended to clamp down on violent protests with federal forces, calling Oakland, among other cities, “a mess.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf quickly criticized the statement as “racist” antagonism, adding that the president’s threats would “likely incite” greater civil unrest. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, tweeted that “Trump & his storm troopers must be stopped.”

Oakland’s protests had largely died down before a resurgence Saturday evening, as hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in solidarity with the Portland protesters. That night, a fire was set near the Alameda County Courthouse and the Oakland Police Department building was damaged.

“Vandalizing our downtown gives Donald Trump the images he wants and the justification he seeks to send federal troops into American cities,” Mayor Schaaf said in a statement Sunday.

However, the Trump administration may struggle to find justification for deploying federal officers to Oakland. In Portland, protests remain strong throughout the daytime and gather momentum at night. Meanwhile, the area around Oakland’s federal buildings has remained largely quiet since Saturday’s demonstrations.

On Wednesday morning, there was no activity outside of the Oakland Federal Courthouse or Alameda County Courthouse.

Tuesday’s vote formalizes the city’s stand against a federal intervention that many are calling unconstitutional. Trump has the power to use military force against civil unrest, according to federal law, but Kalb said that the mayor and the city attorney have been working with state officials to devise a legal strategy that would block federal agents from taking action against protesters in the city.

“This is the latest salvo in the fight to protect the rights of the people from a brutish administration intent on destroying those rights — and destroying the rule of law,” Parker said in a statement Monday. “If the federal government insists on taking action to terrorize our city, then we will step up to protect it.”

Also on Tuesday, the City Council unanimously supported the renaming of two city streets after Black Panthers co-founder Huey Newton and late journalist Chauncey Bailey.

©2020 the San Francisco Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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