White House: Federal LEOs coming to Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said using US agents to deal with protesters would be "unacceptable"

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

DETROIT — The White House plans to deploy federal agents to Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee in the coming weeks as part of the Trump administration's "law-and-order" intervention initiative to combat rising crime.

The Justice Department's expansion plans came as Trump announced Wednesday he would send federal agents into Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to aid local law enforcement amid ongoing protests in the wake of the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Protesters march on the MacArthur Bridge during a rally in Detroit, Friday, June 5, 2020 over the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Protesters march on the MacArthur Bridge during a rally in Detroit, Friday, June 5, 2020 over the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“In recent weeks there has been a radical movement to defend, dismantle and dissolve our police department,” Trump said at a Wednesday White House event, blaming the movement for “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.”

Trump didn't specifically mention Detroit during his briefing, but the White House listed the city as part of an official event summary posted on its website late Wednesday.

"Over the next 3 weeks, the Justice Department plans to further expand the initiative into Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee," the summary notes.

Attorney General Williams Barr indicated during the Wednesday news event that "We will be adding cities in the weeks ahead" beyond Chicago and Albuquerque.

The president said Monday he was considering sending more federal law enforcement into several cities, including Detroit.

The notice comes as Detroit protesters have said this week that they have noticed an unmarked federal law enforcement car around their demonstrations.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan reiterated Thursday that he and Detroit Police Chief James Craig have had multiple conversations with federal officials and are "comfortable now that there will not be Homeland Security officers coming to Detroit."

"There is no justification to deal with protesters with homeland security officers," the mayor told reporters following an unrelated news conference.

On Wednesday, the mayor said that such a move would be "unacceptable."

“Certainly, the chief and I made it very clear that sending in folks from the Department of Homeland Security to deal with protesters, we didn’t even accept the National Guard at the height of the protest,” he said Wednesday. “We made a decision early on that the bond between the Detroit Police Department and this community was strong enough, that we could handle the protests ourselves.”

The mayor has said the city has been spared from the looting and fires that some other parts of the country have endured and residents are standing up, he said, to say 'you are not going to tear up our town.'"

“That’s been our strategy and we’re going to stick with that strategy," Duggan said.

In recent days, he's sent federal forces into cities including Kansas City, Missouri and Portland, where early Monday morning they used tear gas to disperse protesters who had approached a federal court house and then set a fire outside the courthouse.

In Portland, the use of federal law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security staff has spurred pushback and lawsuits questioning the federal government's authority to use broad policing powers.

"I'm going to do something — that, I can tell you," Trump said from the Oval Office Monday. "Because we're not going to let New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore ... we're not going to let this happen in our country," noting all of the cities were run by "liberal Democrats.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, both Democrats, responded Monday in a joint statement by criticizing Trump's efforts to "suppress the voices of those he doesn't agree with" as "un-American."

Whitmer said federal troops are not needed in Michigan.

"Quite frankly, the president doesn't know the first thing about Detroit," she said. "If he did, he would know that for nearly two months now, Detroiters have gathered to peacefully protest the systemic racism and discrimination that Black Americans face every day."

Whitmer's office has "no further updates to share," spokeswoman Chelsea Lewis said Thursday.

Trump is using his authority "as a cudgel to punish those who use their constitutionally guaranteed rights to express views he disagrees with," Nessel said.

The Justice Department usually sends agents under its own umbrella, like agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement Agency. But this surge effort will include at least 100 Department of Homeland Security Investigations officers working in the region who generally conduct drug trafficking and child exploitation investigations.

Duggan said Detroit would welcome support from the federal government if it means adding more extra gun prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office and more efforts by ATF to get illegal guns off the street.

©2020 The Detroit News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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