The Attorney General says he will take ‘any appropriate legal action’ to stop excessive force such as that seen in Portland.
“There is no more accurate way to describe this administration’s repeated resort to and incitement of racism, xenophobia, and violence,” Kaul said.
The White House made the announcement that it was sending agents last week a few days after Chief of Staff Mark Meadows indiciated Milwaukee was on a list of cities that could see a deployment similar to the one seen in Portland, Oregon.
Unmarked, militarized federal agents have been in Portland since mid-July and have engaged in tactics reminiscent of secret police, brutalized protesters, fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and rounded people up off the street, before speeding away in unmarked vehicles.
In a Sunday appearance on WISN’s “UPFRONT” program, Kaul reiterated that he is strongly opposed to the deployment, which is scheduled to occur within three weeks.
“What happened in Washington D.C. in front of the White House where we saw what I think was a blatantly illegal attack on peaceful protesters and what’s happened in Portland, that cannot happen in Wisconsin,” Kaul said. “And if it does happen, I’m going to be speaking out and I’m going to be taking any appropriate legal action.”
The President claims the federal program, named Operation Legend after a young boy killed in Kansas City, is an effort to stop violent crime in major cities including Milwaukee, Portland, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Albuquerque, and Kansas City.
In remarks announcing the operation, Trump conflated “radical” protests with “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders, and heinous crimes of violence” in the cities. While it is true murders are sharply rising in cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago, the violence is not at all linked to protests. In Milwaukee, a group has engaged in overwhelmingly peaceful marches for about two months straight.
Kaul said he’s “certainly happy to work together” with the federal forces if they are earnest about helping with violent crime in Milwaukee, “but we’re going to watch this closely and see how things unfold.”
Local leaders and Gov. Tony Evers panned the deployment, calling it unwanted and unnecessary.
“As we have seen in Portland, this excessive and unwelcome federal law enforcement presence only makes these situations more volatile and dangerous,” Evers wrote in a letter to Trump. “…This type of unilateral intervention has not been requested by either the City of Milwaukee or the State and is not welcome in Wisconsin.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told UpNorthNews the deployment “could be counterproductive,” while Common Council President Cavalier Johnson called it “dangerous.” The Milwaukee Police Department said it “respectfully declines” the deployment.
Forces sent to Portland were not trained in crowd control, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by the New York Times. Operation Legend is a joint effort by DHS, the U.S. Marshals; FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Matthew Krueger, U.S. Attorney for Wisconsin’s Eastern District, said in a tweet that the deployment in Milwaukee “will enhance existing crime reduction strategies.”
Local and state officials appear to ultimately be powerless to stop the deployment. Department of Homeland Security head Chad Wolf told Fox and Friends last Monday: “We’re going to do that, whether they like us there or not.”
Still, Kaul did not rule out a lawsuit if the agents begin to act similarly in Milwaukee as they are in Portland. He said the forces in Portland are acting more like local law enforcement — something that federal agents are not supposed to do.
“That’s not how our system is set up,” Kaul said. “It’s unconstitutional, and we would challenge that if that happens.”