CHICAGO (CBS) — As President Donald Trump prepares to send a “surge of federal law enforcement” to Chicago to help fight violent crime, Black Lives Matter Chicago is seeking a court order to prevent a repeat of the situation in Portland, Oregon, where federal agents have been seen putting protesters into unmarked cars without apparent cause.
U.S. Attorney Jon Lausch said the agents being sent to Chicago will be bolstering existing law enforcement efforts to reduce gun violence, not patrolling streets in camouflage and making arrests as part of a mission to protect federal buildings, as they have done in Portland.
However, Black Lives Matter is not convinced Chicago won’t see a repeat of the situation in Portland.
The group has filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and the heads of several federal law enforcement agencies, seeking an injunction prohibiting federal agents from “interfering in or otherwise policing lawful and peaceful assemblies and protests.”
The lawsuit also seeks to bar federal agents from conducting arrests without probable cause to believe a federal crime has been committed, and requiring any federal agents deployed to Chicago to identify themselves and their agency before detaining anyone or making any arrests.
“President Donald Trump has long fancied himself a strongman leader better suited for a dictatorship than a democracy. He has maligned the nation’s cities, including Chicago, Portland, and New York, saying they are ‘run’ by ‘Radical Left Democrats’ who, in his view, will ‘destroy our Country as we know it.’ The President has continually spoken out against peaceful protestors, even directing his agents to clear peaceful protestors from public grounds outside of the White House through the use of physical force and chemical weapons,” their lawsuit states. “Repeatedly, the President has warned the nation’s cities that he will use similar force against their civilians to end peaceful protest.”
BLM Chicago said it also plans to file a lawsuit against the city, the Chicago Police Department, and the Fraternal Order of Police, seeking an injunction directing police to stop using excessive force against protesters.
Representatives from Black Lives Matter and other activist groups gathered at Federal Plaza in the Loop on Thursday. They pointed directly to the incident last Friday, when a peaceful rally turned violent in Grant Park.
Police and demonstrators clashed near the statue of Christopher Columbus. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPD leadership have said a group of vigilantes hijacked an otherwise peaceful protest by attacking officers, pelting them with frozen water bottles, rocks, and fireworks.
However, activists have said police also used excessive force against peaceful protesters, spraying tear gas indiscriminately into the crowd, hitting innocent protesters with batons, and arresting people for airing their grievances to the government.
“They are trying to suppress our righteous anger, and we will not be suppressed. We will continue fighting back,” said Black Lives Matter organizer Aislinn Pulley.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot also has said she is prepared to go to court if the federal agents being sent to Chicago use Portland-style tactics here.