CHICAGO (AP) — The war of words between Chicago’s mayor and President Donald Trump escalated after a weekend when 12 were killed in the city and dozens injured by gunfire, with Lori Lightfoot rejecting any suggestion federal law enforcement officers should be dispatched to the city and Trump all but promising to send them.
In a letter sent to the president on Monday, Lightfoot said the deployment of secret, federal agents who “arrest, and detain residents without any cause” is a bad idea and urged the president not to do it.
Lightfoot, a frequent Trump critic, slammed the president in the letter for “unhelpful” rhetoric and detailed ways the federal government could help the city to reduce violence, including gun safety reform, public safety support, community outreach and community investment.
The Department of Homeland Security was planning to deploy about 150 Homeland Security Investigations agents to Chicago, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plans who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Those agents generally do lengthy investigations into human trafficking, drugs and weapons smuggling and child exploitation, but they have also been deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border during the height of the crisis there to help.
The Trump administration sent federal officers in Portland, Oregon, after weeks of protests there over police brutality and racial injustice that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Oregon’s governor and Portland’s mayor have expressed anger with the presence of the federal agents, saying that the city’s protests had started to ease just as the federal agents started taking action.
However, Trump, framing such protests in the nation’s large cities as a failure by “liberal Democrats” who run them, praised the officers’ actions and said he was looking to send agents to other cities.
He pointed to rising gun violence in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, where more than 63 people were shot, 12 fatally, over the weekend.
“How about Chicago? Would you say they need help after this weekend?” Trump told reporters at the White House. “You know the numbers that you hear, the numbers? Many, many shot. Many, many killed.”
“Reasonable local police officials, including our superintendent, know that it is a dangerous road for us to go down,” Lightfoot said late Monday in an interview on MSNBC. “We are not going to have people who don’t know our streets don’t know our neighborhoods and then who are engaging in clearly unconstitutional conduct operating at will in our city.”
Lightfoot, a former assistant U.S. attorney, said she is prepared to file a lawsuit to block efforts to place federal agents not under the direction of Chicago police in the city.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois rejected any deployment of federal forces in Chicago, vowing to hold the “Trump administration and any such federal forces accountable for unconstitutional actions.”
In Chicago, the Homeland Security Investigations agents were expected to stay in Chicago at least two months, the official who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity said. It’s possible they may also be deployed to other locations at some point. They would essentially be working under the Justice Department, the official said.
A DHS spokesman said the department doesn’t comment on “allegedly leaked operations.”
None of the weekend shootings were connected to a Friday night protest where people marching against police brutality and racial injustice tried to topple a statue of Christopher Columbus, and Trump did not specifically reference that. Video shows officers using batons to beat protesters, some of whom threw fireworks, pieces of pipe and frozen bottles of water at police.
“We’re going to have more federal law enforcement, that I can tell you,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
Trump’s comments about Chicago come after the president of the local police officer’s union wrote him a letter asking “for help from the federal government” to help combat gun violence. The city has seen 414 homicides this year, compared with 275 during the same period last year.
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, a vocal supporter of Trump, called Lightfoot a “complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order,” but did not say what kind of help he was asking for or whether he wants federal troops to be sent to the city.
Lightfoot in turn called Catanzara “an unhinged leader of the Fraternal Order of Police who is craven and trying to get attention.”
Trump’s comments Monday were not the first time he has made disparaging comments about Chicago leaders, and what he says is their inability to control violence. Just last month, Trump sent a letter criticizing Lightfoot and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a “lack of leadership” in stemming gun violence. Lightfoot dismissed Trump’s letter as a “litany of nonsense.”
As for the protest Friday night, more than 20 complaints have been filed against police, according to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. They included claims of excessive force and unnecessary use of pepper spray. The agency is also investigating video of an officer striking 18-year-old Miracle Boyd, an activist who says at least one of her teeth was knocked out.
Lightfoot also said video had surfaced showing a small group of people had broken off from marching protesters, changed into black clothes and, using umbrellas to shield themselves from view, threw the items at police.
“That’s not peaceful protest, that’s anarchy and we are going to put that down,” she said.
Police Superintendent David Brown said 49 officers were injured, 18 of whom required hospital treatment.
“Peaceful demonstrations have been hijacked by organized mobs,” said Brown, adding that he will order officers to wear “any and all protective gear” at protests.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Colleen Long contributed to this story from Washington.