There are still a number of unknowns when it comes to federal agents being sent to Milwaukee. When will they arrive? How long will they be here? How many agents are we talking about?
The deployment of those agents to Milwaukee was the subject of a special Milwaukee Common Council Public Safety and Health Committee meeting on Monday.
Images from Portland, Ore., are front and center on the minds of a lot of people these days when anything concerning federal agents is mentioned. That’s after news broke of border patrol agents and deputies from the U.S. Marshal Service picking up protesters in unmarked vehicles and questioning them, using tear gas, and in some cases beating protesters with batons.
Officials say that those federal agents were sent to Portland to protect federal property during continued protests urging society to care for Black people. Similar protests have been happening daily in Milwaukee. And with the federal government’s announcement that it would deploy agents here, there are major concerns.
Chez Ordonez, with the Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission, says, “Let’s be very clear: It’s not help that they’re sending, it’s a hit squad. This is a state-sanctioned gang with the full powers of the federal government with badges military weapons and cooperation and oftentimes with our local law enforcement."
Ordonez says this is a scare tactic being used by the Trump administration in the swing state of Wisconsin.
However, the federal government says that the additional federal agents set to come here has been in the works for months as part of the Operation Relentless Pursuit, which was renamed Operation Legend. The goal of the operation is to help cities get violent crime under control.
At the time this story was reported, Milwaukee had logged 95 homicides. That’s double the number of homicides from all of last year.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm says that while he initially had the same concerns as others with the additional federal agents coming, he would caution against turning away the federal government’s resources to help with the spike in violent crime here.
Chisolm says he hasn’t seen this number of homicides since the early 1990s. He says the federal government in some cases can do more. Chisolm says, take domestic violence for example.
“That’s obviously a rising concern. It plays a substantial role in our elevated homicides in this community. The federal government, for example, has different options for individuals that use firearms in the case of a domestic violence incident if they’d been previously convicted of a domestic violence offense. That’s just one example,” Chisolm says.
He says if needed, he stands ready to prosecute anyone who breaks the law, including federal agents.
Chris Ott, with the Wisconsin ACLU, says that with the city preparing to host the Democratic National Convention, he’s concerned federal agents will be used to break up peaceful protests. Still, Ott says, people should not be distracted by Portland or any other place.
“We shouldn’t focus too much on what happened there because we could face different problems in some way or another. You know, different actors different actions. So, let’s just keep a wide watch as possible,” Ott says.
The U.S. attorney for this region is expected this week to release details surrounding the number of agents coming to Milwaukee and the timing.