On Monday, President Donald Trump noted that he may be sending federal law enforcement officials similar to those deployed in Portland, Oregon to Oakland and other cities across the U.S.
Growing unrest and violence in Portland, Ore.
Officials have noted that protesters have been threatening federal buildings and property, most notably the federal buildings in downtown Portland.
“City police failed to prevent damage, so so we sent federal officers,” said an unnamed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) representative in an interview with the California Globe on Tuesday. “They are unmarked, but they are being defensive. Any action you’ve seen from them has been in defense of the buildings.”
On CNN on Monday, Department of Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli noted that the unmarked officers were no different that local police officers who also use little to no markings.
“Literally, every police department in America has them,” said Cuccinelli.
However, those covering the ‘Battle of Portland‘ have seen and recorded acts of violence from both protesters angered by unmarked federal officer intervention in their protests against police brutality, racial injustice, and lack of police accountability, as well as federal officers and Portland police officers who have been trying to maintain order and disperse crowds.
While Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler have been trying to push federal officers out as they came “without invitation or warrant,” President Trump has said that he might expand federal officers to other cities across the U.S., including Oakland.
Possible federal intervention in Oakland
“I’m going to do something, that I can tell you,” said President Trump earlier in the week. “Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these – Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country.”
California and Oakland officials responded negatively to Trump on Monday and Tuesday, noting that Oakland did not have any civil unrest like Portland or New York has had.
“Oakland needs COVID relief – not troops – from our President,” noted Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in an e-mailed statement. “He should stop slandering diverse, progressive cities like Oakland in his racist dog whistles and divisive campaign tactics.”
“While we are not experiencing any civil unrest right now, I can think of nothing more likely to incite it than the presence of Trump-ordered military troops into Oakland.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), who represents the Oakland area, agreed.
“This administration’s abuse of power in Portland can’t be further from the ideals of a democracy,” said Congresswoman Lee in a Tweet. “Trump needs to be reminded that: He’s not a dictator. People have a constitutional right to protest. Stay away from Oakland.”
This administration's abuse of power in Portland can't be further from the ideals of a democracy. Trump needs to be reminded that:
-He's not a dictator
-People have a constitutional right to protest
Stay away from Oakland. https://t.co/W2Fz0u2OTA
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) July 20, 2020
In a short statement, California Governor Gavin Newsom simply said “The answer is no, and we would reject it.”
Riots, protests, and federal officer murders in Oakland this year
While Oakland has not seen any large-scale riots or continuous protests, there have been several protests in and around Oakland since the George Floyd incident in late May. Protests on May 30th in Oakland ended with a federal officer being shot and killed with another wounded. The Oakland riots, which also included mass property damage, were widely denounced for being violent, with the DHS even calling the federal officer shootings an act of terrorism. While the protests in Oakland have largely been peaceful since June, Oakland was included on the intervention list largely because of the murder of the federal officer.
“Oakland has seen many protests since then, especially with Black Lives Matters (BLM),” said Darren Gates, a BLM protester in and around the Bay Area, to the Globe. “But after the fed was killed, things clicked differently. And they didn’t forget what happened here.”
“We were out there July 4th staging a peaceful protest. We’ve been non-violent. But they didn’t forget. That’s why Trump is sending [federal officers] out. The cities he mentioned all have high African-American populations, but I admit that those are the areas that have seen larger protests because of that too.”
It is currently known when, or if even, Trump sends out federal officers to Oakland and the other cities he mentioned, although many believe that the result of what happens in Portland will be the deciding factor.
“If Portland is quelled, then we won’t see troops here,” explained Gates. “But if it isn’t, then we may see them. That’s the general feeling right now.”
“And we don’t want feds here.”