Kamis, 23 Juli 2020

Operation Legend: Donald Trump cracks down on ‘rampage of violence’ in Chicago -

US President Donald Trump is deploying a “surge” of federal law enforcement officers to Chicago to crack down on what he calls a “rampage of violence”.

“Hundreds” of officers from the FBI, US Marshals, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal agencies will be sent into America’s third-largest city, which is among several currently suffering spikes in violent crime.

It’s an expansion of an existing initiative, dubbed “Operation Legend” in honour of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot dead in Kansas City last month.

Thirty-five agents are also being sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Mr Trump has warned that other cities will face similar interventions going forward.

“My first duty as President is to protect the American people, and today I am taking action to fulfil that sacred obligation,” the President said at the White House today.

“In recent weeks, there has been a radical movement to defund, dissolve and dismantle our police departments. Extreme politicians have joined this anti-police crusade and relentlessly vilified our law enforcement heroes.

“To look at it from any standpoint, the effort to shut down policing in their own communities has led to a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders, and heinous crimes of violence. This bloodshed must end; this bloodshed will end.

“Today I’m announcing a surge of federal law enforcement into American communities plagued by violent crime.

“Frankly, we have no choice but to get involved.”

Mr Trump has been threatening to send federal forces into cities since protests against police brutality first erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of an officer.

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Those protests have included calls to “defund the police”. To some, that means dismantling police departments entirely, though the slogan is more often used as shorthand for reallocating some funding towards other government services, such as mental health, housing and education.

Mr Trump believes the increase in crime is a direct result of the demonstrations. He is also blaming Democratic mayors and governors.

“For decades, politicians running many of our major cities have put the interests of criminals above the rights of law-abiding citizens,” he said.

“These same politicians have now embraced the far-left movement to break up our police departments, causing violent crime in their cities to spiral seriously – and I mean seriously – out of control.

“In New York City, over 300 people were shot in the last month alone, a 277 per cent increase at least over the same period a year ago. Murders this year have spiked 27 per cent in Philadelphia and 94 per cent in Minneapolis compared to the same period in 2019.

“Perhaps no citizens have suffered more from the menace of violent crime than the wonderful people of Chicago, a city I know very well.

“This rampage of violence shocks the conscience of our nation.”

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Mr Trump’s announcement comes a day after 15 people were injured in a mass shooting outside a Chicago funeral home.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the city has suffered 414 homicides so far this year, compared to 275 at the same time last year.

The cause of that increase is up for debate, as it coincides with both the protests and the coronavirus pandemic.

But Attorney-General William Barr backed up Mr Trump’s unambiguous assertion that the protests were to blame, citing an “extreme” reaction to Mr Floyd’s death.

“What we have seen then is a significant increase in violent crime in many cities. And this rise is a direct result of the attack on the police forces and the weakening of police forces,” Mr Barr argued.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot greeted the announcement with cautious optimism.

“If those agents are here to actually work in partnership and support of gun violence and violent cases, plugging into existing infrastructure of federal agents, not trying to play police in our streets, then that’s something that may add value,” Ms Lightfoot said.

“But the proof is going to be in the pudding.”

Yesterday, in anticipation of the move, the Mayor said she would “welcome actual partnership” with the federal government, but not “dictatorship”.

“Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump’s troops to come to Chicago and terrorise our residents,” Ms Lightfoot said.

She said her city would remain “vigilant”, and urged Chicagoans to report any conduct by federal law enforcement that doesn’t “look right”.

Her suspicion is fuelled in part by federal agents’ behaviour in Portland, Oregon, where they have clashed violently with protesters. In some cases, agents wearing camouflage have been seen grabbing people off the streets and putting them in unmarked mini-vans.

Local officials in Portland have demanded that federal forces leave their city. The tactics have also been slammed by former DHS secretary Michael Chertoff, a Republican.

“You can protect federal property, but that doesn’t mean it’s an unlimited licence to roam around the streets and pick up people based on some suspicion that maybe they’re involved or going to be involved in something,” Mr Chertoff told ABC News.

“The reports that I read about roving around on the street and stopping people and taking them down strike me as going beyond that authority.”

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The Trump administration has sought to distinguish the Portland operation from its new intervention in Chicago.

“The DHS mission in Portland is to protect federal property and our law enforcement officers. In Chicago, the mission is to protect the public from violent crime on the streets,” Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said today.

During today’s coronavirus media briefing at the White House, reporters asked Mr Trump why he was blaming local leaders for the rise in crime, given he pinned that blame on former president Barack Obama during a similar spike in 2016.

“Chicago is a disaster,” Mr Trump replied.

“The Mayor is saying, ‘Don’t come in.’ The Mayor is telling us not to come in. At some point, we can void that if we have to – and we may have to at some point, because it’s out of control. I assume she’s saying that for political reasons. I think it’s negative political reasons.

“She’s a – she’s a Democrat. I’m going to be nice. She’s a Democrat. She’s making a big mistake. People are dying in Chicago, and other cities, and we can solve the problem. They have to ask us, but we can solve the problem.”

“Why was it President Obama’s fault in 2016?” pressed CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins.

“Because President Obama was invited in, and he did a poor job. President Obama could have gone into Chicago, he could have solved the problem, and he didn’t. In our case, they don’t want us in. We can solve the problem very easily,” Mr Trump said.

“Chicago should be calling us, and so should Philadelphia, and Detroit, and others. When you’re losing many people a weekend – many, many people, you see the same numbers I do – when you’re losing all these people, they should call us and they should say, ‘Come on in.’ It’s incredible to me that they’re not doing it.

“At some point they will; at some point we may have no other choice but to go in.”

Mr Trump has sought to portray himself as a “law and order” President, and the accusation that Democrats are soft on crime is a central feature of his election campaign against former vice president Joe Biden.

The Trump campaign has recently been running ads warning voters they “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America”, and claiming he supports defunding the police – an assertion the former vice president disputes.

“I don’t support defunding the police,” Mr Biden told CBS last month.

“Biden wants to defund the police,” the President insisted during a wide-ranging interview with Fox News on Sunday.

“Sir, he does not,” interjected the interviewer, veteran political journalist Chris Wallace.

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“Look, he signed a charter with (former presidential candidate) Bernie Sanders,” Mr Trump said.

“It says nothing about defunding the police,” Wallace shot back.

“Oh really? It says abolish, it says – let’s go,” said the President.

Mr Trump sent a staffer to retrieve the agreement between Mr Biden and Mr Sanders, but was unable to find proof for his claim.

“The White House never sent us evidence the Bernie-Biden platform calls for defunding or abolishing police, because there is none,” Wallace told his viewers.

“It calls for increased funding for police departments, (provided they) meet certain standards. Biden has called for redirecting some police funding for related programs, like mental health counselling.”

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2020-07-23 06:42:15Z

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