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Federal Agents Will Soon Be In Milwaukee With Likely No Local Authority To Remove Them

Nathan Howard
Getty Images
A federal officer watches a crowd of protesters during a standoff between the two groups at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21 in Portland, Ore.

Federal agents are headed to Milwaukee, according to an announcement from the Trump administration.

This comes after Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers explicitly asked the administration not to send agents to Milwaukee. Stating in a letter that, "this is not a moment to double down and unnecessarily increase police presence, especially without invitation."

The president has since stated that the move is a necessary anti-violent crime effort. Right now, it's unclear how many federal agents will be deployed to Milwaukee and in what capacity. 

>>Prosectuor: Agents Headed To Milwaukee Won't Police Protests

Federal agencies have been in the limelight recently after national news outlets began taking notice of their actions in Portland, Ore. Rebecca Ellis, an Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter, was on the ground Wednesday evening amidst the protests in Portland and describes a particularly surreal scene involving the city's mayor, Ted Wheeler.

“I'm not sure what set them off, but by the time the mayor started going over there, something has set them off and there was a ton of tear gas, CS gas, and flashbangs. It was like it's been every night, but this time, the mayor was front and center,” Ellis says.

After getting tear gassed twice by the federal agents, Ellis says the mayor of Portland has denounced their actions as an “egregious overreaction”.

“[Local authorities] will say any chance they get they want these federal officers out and ... that [local authorities] are powerless basically. I don't know that they use the word powerless, but they have no control," she says. "I know the mayor has said he's asked the city attorney to look into what, if anything, they can do to try and get these federal officers out of the city. There's work I think, at the state level, and there's some lawsuits going. People are angry they're here. They want them out. I don't know that there's concrete steps that anyone knows that they can take to get them out."

An extended interview with WUWM's Angelina Mosher Salazar and Oregon Public Broadcasting's Rebecca Ellis that aired on Lake Effect. Since the interview was recorded the White House did confirm federal agents will be coming to Milwaukee.

"They want them out. I don't know that there's concrete steps that anyone knows that they can take to get them out." - Rebecca Ellis

Ellis says that authorities responding with similar crowd control tactics are what residents have been seeing for the past month and a half by Portland local police. But violence has escalated in the past couple of weeks with the presence of federal agents.

“Once stories broke that [federal officers] had shot a protester holding a boombox or speaker in the head with a less-lethal munition and he had to get facial reconstruction surgery — and that made headlines nationally. And then, of course, the story about federal officers taking people off the streets and basically placing them in cars and asking them questions and dropping them off somewhere else. That story also made national headlines and that's when the nation sort of caught on to the presence of federal officers here,” she explains.

Again, it is unclear in which capacity Federal agents will be coming to Milwaukee and when. But in response to the announcement, the Wisconsin ACLU issued a statement decrying the decision to send agents to Milwaukee, saying the city doesn't need a repeat of the failed approach in Portland.

Angelina Mosher Salazar joined WUWM in 2018 as the Eric Von Broadcast Fellow. She was then a reporter with the station until 2021.