Amid a surge in gun violence and protests sparked by the alleged killing of George Floyd, the United States’ third-largest city is on edge, awaiting possible greater tension in the form of a plan by President Donald Trump to dispatch dozens of federal agents to Chicago.
The White House plan emerged days after a downtown protest over a statue of Christopher Columbus devolved into a chaotic scene of police swinging batons and demonstrators hurling frozen water bottles, fireworks and other projectiles at officers.
Then, on Tuesday in another neighbourhood, a spray of bullets from a car passing a gang member’s funeral wounded 15 people and sent dozens running for their lives.
Tension in the city has climbed to a level that, if not unprecedented, has not been felt in a long time.
“I’ve never seen things worse in this city than they are right now,” the Reverend Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest and longtime activist on the city’s South Side told the Associated Press.
Much of the strain stems from the fact that it remains unclear exactly what the federal officers
Mayor Lori Lightfoot sought to ease fears that the surge will resemble the kind of scene that unfolded in Portland, Oregon, where unidentified agents in camouflage have beaten unarmed protesters and stuffed some of them into unmarked vehicles.
Lightfoot said she has been told the US Attorney’s Office will supervise the additional agents supporting the Chicago offices of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
But given the longstanding animosity between city officials and Trump, leaders from the mayor on down worry that those promises will not hold up.
City officials will be on guard for any “steps out of line,” particularly from agents with the Homeland Security Department, and they will not hesitate “to take the president to court,” Lightfoot said.
Trump announced the plan on Wednesday, saying he would send agents to Chicago and Albuquerque to help combat rising crime. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Attorney General Bill Barr both said the mission in Portland – to protect federal property – differs from the focus in Kansas City, Chicago and Albuquerque.
Barr said the number of agents being deployed to Chicago is “comparable” to the Kansas City surge of more than 200.
will do here. The plan seems to be a repeat of what happened in Kansas City, Missouri, where the administration sent officers to help quell violence after the shooting death of a young boy.