Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has warned President Donald Trump against sending “secret federal agents” to the city, saying its residents need “public safety support, not games”.
The mayor wrote to the president after news reports that the US Department of Homeland Security planned to deploy 150 federal agents to Chicago, the third-largest US city by population. Their mandate was unclear.
Mr Trump alluded last week to violent crime in Chicago and New York, blaming the cities’ Democratic mayors. Mr Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday on Fox News that there was “anarchy” in some US cities and “you’ll see something rolled out this week” to address crime.
The use of federal law enforcement officials in Portland, Oregon, has prompted a state suit accusing federal agencies of civil rights violations. Federal agents operating in Portland picked up an activist in an unmarked vehicle and drove him to an unidentified location, which he only learned upon release was a federal courthouse.
The mayor’s office in Chicago said in a statement that it had not received definitive information about whether more federal agents would be assigned to Chicago.
Ms Lightfoot said in the letter, obtained by the Financial Times, that Mr Trump could make Chicago safer by enacting gun control legislation, supporting community anti-violence programmes and addressing racial inequity and poverty. The city, where nearly 400 people have been killed this year, confiscates more illegal guns from the streets than New York and Los Angeles combined.
What the city did not need, Ms Lightfoot said, were federal agents without a clear mission or chain of command.
“Militarised assistance within our borders that would not be within our control or within the direct command of the Chicago Police Department would spell disaster,” she said. “Secret federal agents who do not know Chicago, are unfamiliar with the unique circumstances of our neighbourhoods and who would operate outside the established infrastructure . . . will foment a massive wave of opposition.”
The arrest and detention of activists in Portland “has undermined residents’ confidence in all levels of government” and “is clearly unconstitutional”, she added. “It is a bad idea, and I urge you not to do it.”
Local law enforcement in Chicago has its own troubled history. The city agreed in 2015 to pay reparations to victims tortured while in the Chicago Police Department’s custody. On Friday, a Chicago police officer was filmed punching an 18-year-old activist in the mouth, knocking out several of her teeth.
John Catanzara Jr, president of the Chicago police union, published a letter to Mr Trump on Saturday “to formally ask you for help from the federal government” to address Chicago’s “chaos”.
“Mayor Lightfoot has proved to be a complete failure who is either unwilling or unable to maintain law and order here,” he said.
The Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union condemned the possibility of increased federal agents in the city.
“Given the documented abuse in Portland by federal forces against the press and those protesting police killing of black people, it is clear that we are in a fight to save our democracy against a reckless administration bent on terrorising our communities and endangering lives,” said Colleen Connell, the executive director of ACLU of Illinois. “This is not law and order. This is an assault on the people of this country [and] the specific protections of protest and press in the first amendment [to the US constitution].”