As Detroit braces for federal forces to arrive, we look at their impact on other cities, from tear gassed residents to disappeared protesters.
DETROIT, MI — President Donald Trump has vowed to send federal forces to Detroit, a highly criticized move that has drawn comparisons to the Gestapo and secret police. These troops have already been deployed to several U.S. cities, inciting violence and confusion where they go.
“Over the next [three] weeks, the Justice Department plans to further expand the initiative into Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee,” the White House said in its daily review Thursday.
Trump claims that the forceful action is in response to rising gun violence across the country and will be expanding his Operation LeGenend protocols. State and local leaders, however, say the president’s actions are ineffective and unnecessary.
“Quite frankly, the president doesn’t know the first thing about Detroit,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “There is no reason for the president to send federal troops into a city where people are demanding change peacefully and respectfully.”
Deploying paramilitary is happening now in Portland and Seattle, where the president says federal assistance is needed to ensure “law and order” prevails in these communities.
“Law and order” harkens back to Richard Nixon’s campaign for office in the 1960s. The phrase was often used in response to mass protests in cities after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Then-candidate Nixon promised constituents “law and order,” a pledge that was “a shorthand message promising repression of the black community,” reported a 1968 issue of Time Magazine. And to that community, it was “a bleak warning that worse times may be coming.”
Federal Lawlessness and Disorder
Instead of ensuring safety, troops have escalated matters dramatically and provoked outrage from local leaders over their treatment of protesters.
One Democratic Congressman, Don Beyer of Virginia, took to Twitter Friday morning to criticize the widespread actions of mysterious federal agents in Portland, Oregon.
The events that have unfolded this week in the city demonstrate further chaos. Hordes of federal agents dressed in camouflage have roamed the streets, deploying flash bang grenades and tear gas at protesters, shooting an unarmed demonstrator in the head with impact munition, and detaining others by throwing them in the back of unmarked vans.
Violent actions like these almost always come in response to civil rights unrest, reserved for the U.S. cities most densely populated with Black and brown residents. Cleveland’s population is 50% Black, and Albuquerque, another U.S. city in the president’s crosshairs, is nearly 50% Latino.
More than 78% of Detroit residents are Black.
Lawmakers Aren’t on Board
Using alarmist language and violence, Trump has targeted Democrat-led cities as out of control and lashed out at the “radical left,” which he has blamed for rising violence in some cities (even though criminal justice experts say the president’s actions defy explanation).
Former FBI agents, city commissioners, and federal lawmakers responded to the show of force with shock.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement in opposition to the president’s plans.
“It is deeply disturbing that President Trump is once again choosing to spread hateful rhetoric and attempting to suppress the voices of those he doesn’t agree with,” she said.
And Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel called the president’s move “unnecessary.”
“President Trump’s politically motivated threat to send ‘more federal law enforcement’ to Detroit, among other cities, has nothing to do with protecting public health or safety,” she said. “It is about using the power of his office as a cudgel to punish those who use their constitutionally guaranteed rights to express views he disagrees with. Such threats undermine peace and stability in our communities by unnecessarily escalating tensions and encroaching on states’ rights.”
While Detroit has seen recent shootings including that at a Coney Island, Trump’s strategy to send federal agents follows a pattern of use of force that creates more unrest around the country.
“Neither the City of Detroit nor the Detroit Police Department has had any contact from any representative of the federal government about any plans to send DHS officers to Detroit,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and police chief James Craig said in a joint statement issued Tuesday. “There could be no possible justification for such an action.”
“There’s nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe,” the president said on Thursday. “Whether that’s from the China virus or the radical-left mob that you see in Portland.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.