Operation LeGend / Operation Diligent Valor
The vareful observer will note that all this sound and fury does not completely cohere. IT seems that federal employees are being used as extras in a reality TV production intended to influence news coverage to support the Trump campaign's over-arching theme of law and order defense agaist Democrats and anarchists lawless in the streets. There is a bit of a jumble here, since part of what is projected is normal law enforcement against violent crime, while the other part is actions by jack-booted thugs against peaceful protesters.
Donald Trump deployed federal agents in camouflage – many unidentified – to the streets of Portland, Oregon. The Department of Homeland Security overruled objections from local authorities, insisting that the forces were there to quell "lawlessness". Operation LeGend is a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime. The Operation was first launched on July 8 in Kansas City, Missouri, as a result of President Trump’s promise to assist America’s cities that are plagued by recent violence. Operation Legend is named after four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City. The first federal arrest under Operation Legend was announced on 30 July 2020.
Trump tweeted on 31 May 2020 that “liberal” U.S. governors and mayors must get tougher on protesters or federal government will step in “and that includes using the unlimited power of our Military.” On June 4, 2020 over 100 Members of the House of Representatives demanded information related to the deployment of unidentifiable and unaccountable federal law enforcement officers in Washington, D.C. These officers were deployed with tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square. They were stationed in the District without identifying information, such as agency identifiers, badges, or name plates.
As a result of the June 26, 2020 Presidential Executive Order: "Protecting American Monuments memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Activity", and directive to DHS law enforcement components, Customs and Border Protection(CBP) and U.S.Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) mobilized tactical teams to provide support to the Federal Protective Service( FPS) in protecting federal buildings and assets within the greater Portland Oregon area. An internal FOUS memo from DHS dated 16 July 2020 noted "The highly skilled tactical teams assigned to support the civil unrest and riots do not specifically have training in riot control or demonstrations. Moving forward, if this type of response is going to be the norm, specialized training and standardized equipment should be deployed to responding agencies."
On the morning of July 4th, the Department of Homeland Security’s Rapid Deployment Force implemented 'Operation Diligent Valor' to positively identify and arrest serious offenders for crimes such as assault. There were over 100 federal law enforcement officers in Portland to patrol federal buildings, including personnel from the Federal Protective Services [FPS], Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service Special Operations Group and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Tactical Unit, BORTAC. Thse federal law enforcement agencies - U.S. Marshals, the deployed forces – including undercover officers - to Portland, Oregon to monitor and quell protests without coordination or communication with local officials or law enforcement. These newly deployed officers are in camouflage uniforms with no badge or insignia denoting their agency or identity. As when they were deployed in Washington, D.C. in June 2020, the federal officers in Portland are unidentifiable and therefore remain unaccountable for any violations of citizens’ constitutional rights.
Witness videos show unidentifiable federal officers patrolling the downtown area in unmarked rental cars and abducting people off the streets with no explanation for the basis of detainment or even a reading of their Miranda rights. One of the protesters detained in such a manner reports officers pulling his hat over his eyes so he could not see [this was a nice theatrical touch, evocative of the standard secret police tactice of pulling a hood over the subjects head]. He was taken to an unidentified facility, having his belongings searched, and being put in a cell without being provided any information by the arresting officers. He was not Mirandized until long after he was grabbed off the street, searched, and placed in a cell. He was never advised of any charges or the basis for his detainment. And only after requesting a lawyer was the protester released. Notably, he was released without any citation or any paperwork reflecting his detention.
Trump continued his relentless attacks on Chicago on 13 July 2020, saying from the White House, “Can you imagine if the country was run like Chicago and like New York and like some of these other Democrat super radical left cities are run? You wouldn’t have a country for very long.” Trump, accused “far-left mayors” of “escalating the anti-cop crusade, and violent crime is spiraling in their cities. It’s all far-left cities where they have no understanding of what has to be done. They don’t have a clue.”
Trump suggested 14 July 2020 Democrat mayors wouldn't mind if their cities were blown up by terrorists. "We don't want people that are going to come in and blow up our cities, do things. And, frankly, with the liberal Democrats running the cities that we do have-where they do have problems - maybe they wouldn't mind. But I would mind and the people of this country mind."
On 17 July 2020 Acting DHS Secretary Wolf stated “The siege can end if state and local officials decide to take appropriate action instead of refusing to enforce the law.” On 20 July 2020 DHS Acting Secretary Wolf responded to the pushback to their crackdown in Portland, Oregon: "I don't need invitations by the state, state mayors or state governors to do our job. We're going to do that whether they like us there or not." The GOP’s own 2016 Republican Platform, page 39, opposed the "over-federalization of criminal justice is one of many ways in which the government in Washington has intruded beyond its proper jurisdiction. The essential role of federal law enforcement personnel in protecting federal property and combating interstate crime should not be compromised by diversion to matters properly handled by state and local authorities."
On 20 July 2020, Trump threatened to expand the deployment of federal law enforcement. "I'm going to do something, that I can tell you," he said. "We're not going to let New York, Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these—Oakland is a mess. We're not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats."
Jamie Raskin and dozens of other Members of Congress wrote an open letter to Trump "This is not legitimate law enforcement under our Constitution but a shocking slide into authoritarianism and police state tactics. Every agent and every police-citizen encounter must be governed by the Constitution. But these new tactics are an outrageous assault on the liberties of the people and the police powers and political sovereignty of the states. The deployment of roving units of secret police under the control of the President is an absolute affront to the Bill of Rights, which vests inviolable civil rights and liberties in the people and core police powers in the states—not a tyrannical and overweening federal government. ... Even more chilling is that Acting Secretary Wolf seems to be encouraging this rogue, unaccountable behavior and celebrating the use of federal forces against American citizens. He has referred to the recent deployment of federal officers as a “siege” on Portland ... "
Juan Cole wrote "Part of Trump’s reelection strategy is to scare the white suburbs, which polls show have soured on him, with “urban” (read: minority) violence. This is clear from his current campaign ads, which try to paint the gentlemanly Joe Biden as a bomb thrower. It now appears clear that part of that strategy is to send Federal agents dressed like Iraq War troops to Democratic-run cities, on the pretext of protecting Federal property, and then for them to attack and provoke Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police protesters, causing violence to escalate and using it … to scare the suburbs. The exercise also has the advantage for Trump of entrenching a new form of secret police and of turning Federal agents into instruments of his authoritarianism."
On 22 July 2020, Trump said "In recent weeks, there has been a radical movement to defund, dismantle, and dissolve our police departments. Extreme politicians have joined this anti-police crusade and relentlessly vilified our law enforcement heroes. To look at it from any standpoint, the effort to shut down policing in their own communities has led to a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders, and heinous crimes of violence. This bloodshed must end....
"For decades, politicians running many of our nation’s major cities have put the interests of criminals above the rights of law-abiding citizens. These same politicians have now embraced the far-left movement to break up our police departments, causing violent crime in their cities to spiral — and I mean spiral seriously out of control." The Department of Justice will "immediately surge federal law enforcement to the city of Chicago," said the president, who has increasingly sought to make law-and-order a theme for his flagging re-election campaign.
Attourney General Willimam Barr said "To carry out Operation LeGend, federal law enforcement agencies will be committing additional resources to these cities, including FBI agents, DEA, ATF, the U.S. Marshals, and the Department of Homeland Security HSI teams. ... This is a different kind of operation, obviously, than the tactical teams we use to defend against riots and mob violence. And we’re going to continue to confront mob violence, but the operations we’re discussing today are very different. They are classic crime fighting. "
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said “ Unfortunately, look at the President’s own words: he’s ready to incite violence in Democratic cities as a re-election strategy built on gaslighting immigrants and people of color. We always welcome partnerships in constitutional crime fighting that are in step with our community, but we won’t sell out our city for a bait and switch excuse to send secret police to Albuquerque. Operation Legend is not real crime fighting; it’s politics standing in the way of police work and makes us less safe.”
The Oregon attorney general filed a lawsuit accusing the federal agents of arresting protesters without cause and using excessive force, which federal authorities have disputed. David Chipman, a senior policy adviser at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said that when he was an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “I was proud to work with local leaders when they needed help righting wrongs,” but that Trump’s recent actions in Portland and his statements about problems in other cities “make clear he thinks federal law enforcement are his personal chess pieces for partisan power grabs.”
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