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Trump says he might send ‘more federal law enforcement’ to other cities in wake of Portland protests

Protesters clamor against police brutality for the 50th day in a row, on July 16, 2020, at Portland, Oregon's Federal Courthouse and are met with tear gas and "less-lethal" munitions and many arrests. (John Rudoff/Sipa USA/TNS)

President Donald Trump said Monday he may send “more federal law enforcement” to cities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit as he lauded the use of force by local and federal officers during protests in Portland, Ore., that have followed the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

Federal officers in Portland have used tactics such as driving unmarked cars to detain demonstrators, according to accounts of protesters, videos circulated on social media and local media.

“In Portland they’ve done a fantastic job,” Trump said Monday during a meeting on the GOP’s coronavirus relief bill.

Jennifer Crandall, a spokeswoman for William McSwain, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said her office had no comment.

As demonstrators take to the streets to protest racism and police brutality, officers across the country have responded with force. In Philadelphia, officers have used tear gas and assaulted peaceful protesters, and deployed military-style vehicles in a residential neighborhood where tear gas wafted into the homes of families.

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After initial days of protests saw looting and police responding with excessive force, marches and demonstrations in Philadelphia have been largely peaceful. The city has since apologized for its tactics those first few days of protests.

More than 140 Philadelphia protesters and residents sued the city this month, saying the June 1 teargassing of a crowd of demonstrators on I-676 and the police use of rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas along 52nd Street in West Philadelphia the day before violated their constitutional rights to free expression and freedom from excessive force.

More than 750 people in Philadelphia were arrested for a slew of citations, like curfew violations, failure to disperse, and disorderly conduct. These protesters were handcuffed and detained in hot cars of buses for so long that they urinated on themselves and plead for water, the Philadelphia Inquirer previously reported.

“Whether they want to admit it or not, the civil citations were in violation of the constitutional rights of all of those that participated in peaceful, lawful protest protected by the First Amendment,” said Paul Hetznecker, a civil rights attorney who works with the Up Against the Law legal collective to represent protesters.

Earlier this month, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced the city was waiving all of code-violation notices issued to protesters from May 30 to June 30. After weeks of defending the decision to use tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters on I-676, Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw apologized and called the use of force “unjustifiable.”

Outlaw has said a departmental investigation and an outside review of the protest response are underway.

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© 2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.