Washington, 23 July 2020 (dpa/MIA) – President Donald Trump will “surge” hundreds of federal law enforcement forces to more US cities to combat rising violent crime, despite strong opposition from local elected officials.
“We have no choice but to get involved,” Trump argued during a press conference in Washington on Wednesday.
Following through on a threat made earlier in the week, he claimed the move would put an end to bloodshed and help communities “plagued by violent crime.”
Troops would be sent to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, as part of what the administration has dubbed Operation Legend.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot this week said she would not allow federal forces to patrol her city’s streets and sharply criticized Trump after the president made his announcement.
“He fundamentally doesn’t care. He doesn’t get it. What he cares most about is himself,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot accused Trump of seeking to create a distraction from the coronavirus pandemic battering the country and growing disappointment in the federal government’s handling of the health crisis.
Chicago has seen a sharp rise of about 50 per cent in homicides so far this year, compared to the same period in 2019. There have been some 414 murders, according to police data.
In Portland, Oregon, the deployment of federal forces to quell sometimes destructive protests has prompted an outcry from top elected officials from the western state over the brutal tactics employed.
Videos have shown unmarked cars involved in arrests, in addition to the mass use of tear gas and beatings of protesters. Opponents of the president say the federal forces are contributing to the tensions, rather than quelling unrest.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has filed a lawsuit against the federal deployment, saying it infringes on citizens’ right to protest and free speech. There are also concerns about federal overreach.
Trump, a Republican, blames an uptick in violence in some major cities on his rivals in the Democratic Party. Democrats increasingly run most of the country’s major cities.
Even among some Republicans the federal deployment has sparked worries of a White House violating principles of federalism.
The president faced harsh criticism when he used federal forces against mostly peaceful protestors demonstrating against racism and police brutality in the capital Washington in June, to clear a way for him to stage a photo-op in front of a church.
Heading into November elections, Trump has been seeking to portray himself as the law-and-order candidate, as the country has been beset by unrest in recent months, including protests against racial injustice.
The president’s poll numbers have been sinking sharply in recent months, in part due to the pandemic, but also as the economy stalls and unrest has hit various parts of the country.