Sixteen Mayors of Major American Cities Call on Trump Administration to Halt Plans and Remove Federal Forces from Cities, Call on Congress to Immediately Investigate President

Seattle (July 22, 2020) – As federal forces remain in Portland and the President plans to announce expand federal actions in cities, sixteen mayors of major American cities have now joined Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s calls on the Trump administration to immediately halt plans to send federal forces from major American cities and withdraw any forces currently in cities. In addition, the mayors called on Congressional leadership to launch an investigation into the administration’s actions to unilaterally deploy and threaten to deploy paramilitary-type forces into American cities. 

On Monday, mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Portland, and Washington, DC joined Mayor Durkan in letters condemning the Trump administration’s actions regarding federal forces. Since Monday, the administration has threatened to deploy federal forces in additional American cities, and has continued to engage in excessive and chilling actions in Portland.

“For a month, the President threatened to send federal forces to “clean up” Seattle. Seattle became an obsession for this administration through tweets and campaign rallies. The President has made good on his threats in Portland, and continues to exacerbate the situation on the ground, endanger communities, and jeopardize the work of local officials. The President unilaterally deploying paramilitary-type forces into American cities should concern all Americans. His blatant disregard for the constitution – and for the safety and wellbeing of our residents – is textbook despotism,” said Mayor Durkan.

“On June 8th, the Seattle City Council passed Resolution 31948 condemning the use of military force in jurisdictions such as Seattle that have not requested and do not intend to request federal interventions. The use of unidentified federal agents would only further create distrust in our communities, at a time when they are calling for the de-militarization of law enforcement. We, as elected leaders, are united in saying federal law enforcement is neither welcome nor needed in our cities and honor the right to peaceful assembly and protest,” said Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide).

“The President is attacking progressive cities with troops who are unwelcome and unskilled. Militarized agents are terrorizing the American people. We must stand together for peace and reform, and against these un-American tactics,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland.

“We welcome partnership, not dictatorship, and will never tolerate the kind of unconstitutional deployment and state-sanctioned lawlessness we saw in Portland,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot of Chicago. “The challenges our cities face are as varied and multifaceted as the cities themselves, and any additional support provided from the federal government must be undertaken with the coordination and cooperation of each city. Anything else would cause more pain and violence in our communities, and put our very democracy at risk.”

You can read the mayors’ full letter to Attorney General Barr and Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and the mayors’ full letter to Congressional leadership. The full letter to the Trump administration is below.

Dear Attorney General Barr and Acting Secretary Wolf:

We write to express our deep concern and objection to the deployment of federal forces in U.S. cities, as those forces are conducting law enforcement activities without coordination or authorization of local law enforcement officials.

The unilateral deployment of these forces into American cities is unprecedented and violates fundamental constitutional protections and tenets of federalism. As you are well aware, President Trump threatened to deploy federal forces in Seattle to “clear out” a protest area and in Chicago to “clean up” the city. Seattle and Chicago authorities objected and threatened legal action to stop such actions. In Washington, DC outside Lafayette Park, extreme action was taken by federal law enforcement against protesters without the Mayor of DC’s approval. Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli said in recent days that the administration intends “to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.” This abuse of power cannot continue.

Deployment of federal forces in the streets of our communities has not been requested nor is it acceptable. While U.S. Marshals have had jurisdiction inside federal courthouses for decades, it is unacceptable and chilling that this administration has formed and deployed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Rapid Deployment Unit and is sending federal authorities to conduct crowd control on city streets and detain individuals. In Portland, their actions have escalated events and increased the risk of violence against both civilians and local law enforcement officers.

In Portland, federal forces have used significant force against protesters on a nightly basis, including shooting one individual in the head with a munition, reportedly fracturing his skull. Others “snatched” an individual from the street without proper identification and placed him in an unmarked vehicle.  These are tactics we expect from authoritarian regimes – not our democracy.  

In many of our cities, our communities have expectations for law enforcement, including identification of officers, training, and recorded body camera footage, among many other expectations and policies. These expectations are being blatantly disregarded by federal forces. In most cities, there is also independent oversight of use of force policies and officers who act outside of policy. Federal officers have not been trained for urban community policing, including critical crowd management and de-escalation techniques. There is no oversight of the actions of federal forces. Importantly, in Portland they do not even appear to be complying with a federal court order regarding the use of tear gas and other crowd control tools. These actions also jeopardize the many important ways federal and local law enforcement must work together to protect our cities and country.

Furthermore, it is concerning that federal law enforcement is being deployed for political purposes. The President and his administration continually attack local leadership and amplify false and divisive rhetoric purely for campaign fodder. Their words and actions have created an environment of fear and mistrust.

We are a nation of laws and fundamental constitutional guarantees. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a national uprising and reckoning. Millions have joined protests and exercised their constitutional rights. The majority of the protests have been peaceful and aimed at improving our communities. Where this is not the case, it still does not justify the use of federal forces. Unilaterally deploying these paramilitary-type forces into our cities is wholly inconsistent with our system of democracy and our most basic values.

Cities across America are battling unprecedented challenges: the continued threat of COVID-19, economic devastation, and a new civil rights movement. Mayors are on the frontlines of solving these challenges. We need the help of our federal government, and we have urged a range of actions to battle COVID-19, provide relief to our workers, businesses, and cities, and institute more just policing in America. But the irresponsible actions of your agencies threaten community safety and progress on policing in our communities.

We urge you to take immediate action to withdraw your forces and agree to no further unilateral deployments in U.S. cities. 

Regards,

Jenny A. Durkan
Mayor of Seattle, WA  
Ted Wheeler
Mayor of Portland, OR  
Keisha Lance Bottoms
Mayor of Atlanta, GA  
Lori Lightfoot
Mayor of Chicago, IL  
Muriel Bowser
Mayor of Washington, DC  
Quinton D. Lucas
Mayor of Kansas City, MO  
Martin J. Walsh
Mayor of Boston, MA    
Jim Kenney
Mayor of Philadelphia, PA    
Michael Hancock
Mayor of Denver, CO  
Eric Garcetti
Mayor of Los Angeles, CA  
Sam Liccardo
Mayor of San Jose, CA  
Libby Schaaf
Mayor of Oakland, CA  
Regina Romero
Mayor of Tucson, AZ  
Darrell Steinberg
Mayor of Sacramento, CA
Kate Gallego
Mayor of Phoenix, AZ
Bill de Blasio
Mayor of New York City, NY