U.S. President Donald Trump said he plans to send law enforcement personnel to some U.S. cities as a federal crackdown on anti-racism protests — including the use of unmarked cars and unidentified officers in camouflage in Portland, Ore. — angers people across the country.
"We're sending law enforcement," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We can't let this happen to the cities."
Trump mentioned New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland as possible places to send in federal forces, noting the cities' mayors are "liberal Democrats."
State and local leaders in Oregon, as well as members of Congress, meanwhile, have called for Trump to remove Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers from Portland.
"They've been there three days and they really have done a fantastic job in a very short period of time, no problem," Trump said of law enforcement sent to the historically liberal city to quell often unruly protests. "They grab a lot of people and jail the leaders. These are anarchists."
'We're not going to apologize': U.S. official
Federal officers last week began cracking down on Portland protests against police brutality and systemic racism, using tear gas and taking some activists into custody without explanation. Despite a national outcry over the tactics, DHS officials on Monday said they would not back down and would not apologize.
Top DHS officials say they have no intention of pulling back in Portland, and defended the federal crackdown on anti-racism protests in the country, including the use of unmarked cars and unidentified officers in camouflage.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent law enforcement units to Portland to back up the Federal Protective Service responsible for guarding government facilities after receiving intelligence about planned attacks around July 4, the DHS officials said.
"DHS is not going to back down from our responsibilities. We are not escalating, we are protecting," Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security, told Fox News.
Protests began across the country after the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis in late May.
Last week, federal officers started cracking down on crowds, using tear gas to disperse protesters and taking some into custody in unmarked cars.
WATCH | Tear gas fired at demonstrators during a protest in Portland:
Officers without clear identification
On Monday morning, Portland Police provided details on another tense night between protesters and federal law enforcement in the city, saying federal agents used tear gas to disperse a crowd that had gathered outside a federal courthouse downtown.
Wolf said federal law enforcement was doing its job.
"We're not going to apologize for it," he said. "We're going to do it professionally and do it correctly."
The clampdown in Portland has drawn widespread criticism and legal challenges as videos surfaced of officers without clear identification badges using force and unmarked vehicles to arrest protesters without explanation.
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting DHS deputy secretary, said the federal officers wore the same uniforms every day and the crowds knew who they were. He also defended the use of unmarked cars as routine.
"Unmarked police vehicles are so common it's barely worth discussion," he told CNN.
Cuccinelli said if federal authorities receive the same kind of intelligence threat in other places, they would respond the same way.
"It's really as simple as that," he said.
Democrats demand answers
On Sunday, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives demanded internal investigations into whether the Justice and Homeland Security departments "abused emergency authorities" in handling the Portland protests.
Portland's mayor called the intervention an abuse of federal power and said it was escalating the violence. Oregon's attorney general filed a lawsuit against the federal agencies, saying they had seized and detained people without probable cause.
Cuccinelli dismissed local leaders' calls to leave the city.
"We will maintain our presence," he said.
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