The Department of Homeland Security has dispatched a team of officers to Seattle as a precaution against a new round of protests expected this weekend, as the federal government’s law enforcement footprint continues to expand in major U.S. cities.
A tactical unit drawn from the ranks of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which also has dispatched officers to Portland, Oregon, where federal authorities have clashed with protesters almost nightly, is being placed on stand-by in Seattle to back-up existing Federal Protective Services officers who are securing government buildings in the city.
Authorities said the number of officers, about a dozen, does not compare with the more than 100 dispatched to Portland, where demonstrations against police brutality have continued since the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The mayor of Portland, Oregon, was tear gassed by the U.S. government late Wednesday as he stood at a fence guarding a federal courthouse during another night of protest against the presence of federal agents sent by President Donald Trump. (July 23)
“The department’s mission is to ensure that we are prepared for all threats, all the time,” DHS said in a statement. “In this environment, all major metropolitan areas have additional capabilities on standby to protect facilities. This is prudent and commonsense.
“There is no large-scale deployment of personnel to Seattle at this time,” the agency maintained. “As threats warrant, any large scale use of law enforcement assets will involve close coordination with local law enforcement. There are no other cities across the country that have the same threats and lack of local law enforcement support as we are experiencing in Portland.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Friday that she had not been notified in advance of the DHS deployment but had been assured by acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf that “Seattle was not Portland” and there was no plan to surge large numbers to the city.
If federal authorities stray from that understanding, Durkan said the city is “prepared to take every legal step necessary.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said local authorities had not asked DHS for additional assistance and called for federal authorities not to intervene.
“The administration should focus on ways to protect civil rights and make the changes Americans are calling for, not cause further provocation and increase tensions,” Cantwell said.
With additional demonstrations planned Saturday and Sunday, Durkin appealed for protesters to reject the violence and destruction that marred public displays Sunday and Wednesday.
The Seattle deployment, first reported by The New York Times, comes after the Justice Department inspector general Thursday announced an investigation into tactics used by federal agents against protesters in Portland and Washington, D.C., where officers forcibly removed demonstrators near the White House last month.
The Justice inquiry is being coordinated with DHS’ inspector general.
The federal response to local protests is only one aspect of the government’s recent forays into American cities.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr announced that hundreds of officers were being surged to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to assist local authorities with persistent violent crime. Officials later added Detroit to that list.
The government’s action has prompted increasing opposition from many city leaders who assert that the strategy is more an attempt to revive Trump’s sagging political standing than a true public safety operation.
Trump, however, has vowed to expand the anti-crime operation to even more cities across the country led by Democrats.
Contributing: William Cummings and Nicholas Wu
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