Black Lives Matter Chicago and other Chicago activist groups have filed a lawsuit against the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, Attorney General William Barr, and other heads of federal agencies in an attempt to block the deployment of federal forces in the city. The suit was filed in a U.S. District Court in Illinois a day after the Justice Department announced the expansion of Operation Legend, a federal initiative that will involve sending “anti-violent crime task forces” to cities including Chicago, Kansas City, and Albuquerque. Although the stated purpose of deploying these federal agents under Operation Legend is to support local law enforcement in “combating violence in American cities”, many fear that Chicago will soon end up in a similar situation to Portland, where “unidentified federal troops” have descended on the city, brutalizing protestors and detaining them in unmarked vans in an apparent effort to quell the recent protests against police brutality.
Regardless of the reasons for sending in these forces, activists in Chicago are concerned that the very presence of these federal agents will escalate the already-high tensions between protestors and law enforcement.
“Sending in federal agents without any real specificity and clarity for their presence is a very slippery slope,” said David Stovall, a professor of Black studies and criminology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “If they are just going to ramp up what is existing, then that could mean more arrests and, in the worst case, more fatalities.”
In the lawsuit, the Chicago activist groups argue that this deployment is an infringement on their right to assemble, stating that the actions of federal law enforcement (on top of the actions of the Chicago police) make them scared to keep organizing protests. Less than a week ago, 18-year-old activist Miracle Boyd had several teeth knocked out during a confrontation with a Chicago police officer—and this is before any federal agents were sent to the city. Considering the videos from the recent actions in Portland, which document atrocities including federal agents firing stun grenades at protestors and beating them with blunt objects, these activist groups are right to be concerned.