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Black Lives Matter Launches Lawsuit to Keep Federal Agents Out of Chicago

— July 24, 2020

A Black Lives Matter leader said the federal government can’t be trusted after what it’s done to protesters in Portland.

Black Lives Matter has filed a lawsuit to prevent the Trump administration from sending federal agents to Chicago.

According to Bloomberg, Black Lives Matter—along with several other civil rights groups—have said the federal government cannot be trusted to keep the peace and protect protesters’ rights. In their lawsuit, Black Lives Matter cited incidences of abuse from Portland, Oregon, where masked federal agents have purportedly beaten and abducted peaceful demonstrators.

“We know the authoritarian tactics they have planned because of what they’ve been doing in Portland,” said attorney Tess Kleinhaus, who filed the lawsuit on Thursday.

“The lawsuit is seeking injunctive relief to restrain federal law enforcement officers from violating the First and Fourth [Amendment rights] of protesters, legal observers, and journalists.”

Both the City of Portland and State of Oregon have launched similar lawsuits against the Trump administration. As noted Wednesday, Portland has repeatedly insisted that it neither wants nor welcomes federal intervention in its ongoing protests. Yet President Trump has since said that he will send law enforcement to an assortment of cities, including Chicago, Albuquerque, and Detroit.

Aislinn Pulley, a founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago, told demonstrators that the Trump administration is trying to silence protesters.

“They are trying to suppress our righteous anger, and we will not be suppressed, we will continue fighting back,” Pulley said. “We see what’s happening in Portland, that was the first test case. And now it’s coming here.”

Chicago police car. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Daniel Schwen. (CCA-BY-4.0)

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has voiced limited, conditional support for federal intervention, saying she would accept Washington’s assistance only if its agents work with local law enforcement.

Bloomberg notes that Black Lives Matter has specifically requested a judicial order barring federal agents from disrupting or interfering with the group’s lawful protests. Such an order would prevent federal officers from arresting demonstrators without probable cause.

Furthermore, Black Lives Matter wants any federal officers policing protests to wear clearly visible insignia, including departmental and personal badges.

The Trump administration, notes the Chicago Sun Times, has vigorously defended its officers’ role in crackdowns.

Nevertheless, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf has told Fox News that federal agents are not being sent to Chicago to harass protesters—rather, they are being deployed to combat crime.

“What we’re talking about in Chicago is just that criminal activity that we see in the streets, whether it’s gang crime, illicit narcotics and drug crime and the like,” Wolf said. “And so the Department of Justice, DEA, FBI and others, along with elements of the Department of Homeland Security, are working on those criminal investigations and those criminal activities every day.

“And they do that locally with law enforcement,” Wolf added. “And I think that will continue to operate pretty well.”

Black Lives Matter, though, remains skeptical.

“The President has continually spoken out against peaceful protesters, even directing his agents to clear peaceful protesters from public grounds outside of the White House through the use of physical force and chemical weapons,” the lawsuit states. “Repeatedly, the President has warned the nation’s cities that he will use similar force against their civilians to end peaceful protest.”

Despite her conditional welcome of federal assistance, Lightfoot also pledged to take legal action against the federal government if its agents begin using Portland-style tactics against Windy City protesters.


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