The US Justice Department said on Wednesday it would send dozens of law enforcement officials to Cleveland, Milwaukee and Detroit to combat violent crime, expanding the deployment of federal agents to major cities under a programme promoted by President Donald Trump.
The move follows similar deployments to Chicago, Kansas City, Missouri and Albuquerque, New Mexico under what is known as Operation Legend, an initiative launched to address rising crime in some cities as unrest swept the nation after George Floyds death in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
Federal forces deployed in the US city of Portland, rocked by weeks of clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement, will start pulling out of the city on Thursday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf indicated, meanwhile, that an agreement had been reached for federal forces in downtown Portland to give way to local law enforcement – but warned a full pullout depended on the security situation "significantly" improving.
Brown on Wednesday said federal agents would begin a “phased withdrawal” from the states largest city.
"After my discussions with (Vice President Mike) Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland," she tweeted.
"They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland."
After my discussions with VP Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland. They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland.
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 29, 2020
In his statement, Wolf said he and Brown had "agreed to a joint plan to end the violent activity in Portland directed at federal properties and law enforcement officers".
The Trump administration sent armed officers, many wearing combat-like gear, to intervene in Portland after weeks of anti-racism and anti-police protests left a federal courthouse and other buildings marred with graffiti and broken windows.
But the protests have only intensified since federal officers arrived, with Democrats assailing the deployment as a ploy to boost Trump's law-and-order credentials as he seeks reelection.
Operation Legend isn't about protests or politics
Distinct from the operation in Portland to secure the federal courthouse, the deployments to Chicago, Kansas City, Missouri and Albuquerque, New Mexico are being made under Operation Legend, an initiative launched to address spikes in violent crimes like murders, which have risen by nearly 31 percent in Detroit compared to 2019.
Matthew Schneider, the chief federal prosecutor in the part of Michigan that includes Detroit, told a briefing on Wednesday that there would be "no federal troops" deployed to his state to interfere with peaceful protests.