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Protesters decry Trump threat to deploy federal officers to Philadelphia

“This ends with me, this ends with you, this ends when ordinary people like us let this country know and let the world know that we’re not tolerating it anymore."

  • Katie Meyer/WHYY
Jordan Johnson speaks to another protester at a demonstration against federal law enforcement presence in Portland, Oregon

Brett Sholtis / WITF

Jordan Johnson speaks to another protester at a demonstration against federal law enforcement presence in Portland, Oregon

Federal agents disperse Black Lives Matter protesters near the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Officers used teargas and projectiles to move the crowd after some protesters tore down a fence fronting the courthouse.

Noah Berger / AP Photo

Federal agents disperse Black Lives Matter protesters near the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Monday, July 20, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Officers used teargas and projectiles to move the crowd after some protesters tore down a fence fronting the courthouse.

(Philadelphia) —  Roughly three-dozen protesters gathered in Center City Tuesday night to make it known that they have no intention of accepting federal officers in their city’s streets.

The rally, organized by the group Refuse Fascism, started in Rittenhouse Square, where protesters carried signs like “No Police State,” “No Fascist Military War on the People.”

“This ends with me, this ends with you, this ends when ordinary people like us let this country know and let the world know that we’re not tolerating it anymore,” said Zoe Sturges, 26, a Philadelphia Kindergarten teacher, who was arrested and given a citation last month after climbing over a barricade to hand daisies to a member of the National Guard.

An organizer speaking on a bullhorn said the group is proposing another protest “on a much larger scale” on Aug. 1.

The group later began marching down to City Hall, escorted by police officers on bicycles, chanting, “We stand with Portland, no fascist policing!” and “Together, stay tight, we’ll do this every night!”

The demonstration comes in response to President Donald Trump’s comments about federal law enforcement officers who have been involved in increasingly violent clashes with protesters in Portland, Oregon — without permission or support from local leaders.

The camouflage-clad officers have been seen on video spraying tear gas at protesters, hitting them with batons and grabbing people off the streets into unmarked minivans.

“We’re not going to let New York and Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore … Oakland is a mess, we’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats,” Trump said. “We’ll have more federal law enforcement, that I can tell you. In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job.”

Since Trump’s comments about deploying federal officers around the country, at least one city has confirmed that it plans to cooperate.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday that federal forces will be engaging in a “partnership” to reduce violence in the city, and added that she doesn’t intend for the situation to mirror Portland.

“We welcome actual partnership, but we do not welcome dictatorship, we do not welcome authoritarianism, and we do not welcome unconstitutional arrest and detainment of our residents,” Lightfoot said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Sturges said that concerns her because “it’s a slippery slope.”

Jordan Johnson holds a sign detailing a recent incident with what he says were federal police in Portland, Oregon.

Brett Sholtis / WITF

Jordan Johnson holds a sign detailing a recent incident with what he says were federal police in Portland, Oregon.

“If they’re doing that in one city, and now they’re doing that ina s second city, unless something changes, the general trend seems to be that any city that is resisting, that is pro-Black Lives Matter, any city that is resisting the police being able to do what they want with no consequences is going to get whoever these people’s boots on their backs,” she said. “It’s scary.”

“People are asleep. They think it’s just the stomping out of an uprising, it’s nothing that’s going to affect them, right?” said protester Dorothy Rex, 48, of Philadelphia. “But when they start making the restrictions tighter … Right now, it’s like, ‘Oh well, they’re attacking a federal building.’ Well, later on maybe they’re just marching down the street and now we’re going to get gassed just for marching down the street.”

Thus far, there is no sign that the Trump administration has followed through on that threat in Philadelphia. A spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney said there has been no further word on the topic from federal officials. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about what might spur such a step.

Kenney and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner have both been unequivocal in their opposition to federal officers being stationed in the city.

“The President’s threat is wrong on many levels. To send federal agents to police U.S. cities that have not requested such aid can only impede the work of local governments and exacerbate already heightened tensions in these cities,” Kenney said in a statement.

 

 

WHYY is the leading public media station serving the Philadelphia region, including Delaware, South Jersey and Pennsylvania. This story originally appeared on WHYY.org.

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