A group of Chicago activist organizations filed a lawsuit Thursday requesting that a judge block federal agents from intervening in police protests, arguing that the surge ordered by President Trump will curtail residents’ ability to hold demonstrations.
The suit names Attorney General William Barr and other heads of federal agencies whose agents are part of a planned surge announced Wednesday at the White House. The lawsuit asks a judge to prevent agents in Chicago from making arrests or detaining people without probable cause, along with requiring agents to identify themselves and explain why someone is being arrested.
Attorneys said the planned surge has already caused some members of the activist groups to draw back from protest plans this weekend, “due to the well-founded fear that they will be brutalized or kidnapped by federal agents for no reason other than being a protester, journalist or legal observer on the streets and sidewalks of Chicago.”
The lawsuit comes two days after activist groups in Oregon filed a similar lawsuit against four federal agencies over the presence of federal agents in Portland, which has been mired in chaotic protests in recent weeks. The suit accuses federal agents of arresting protesters without probable cause, whisking them away in unmarked cars and using excessive force. Federal authorities have disputed those allegations.
Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Wednesday sought to separate the mission in Portland – to protect federal property – from the goal of helping stop violent crime in Chicago and Albuquerque. The White House later said the program would be expanded in the coming weeks into Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee.
Chicago activists said in the lawsuit that the government’s reassurances mean little. The suit referenced Trump’s comments Wednesday blaming a push to “defund, dismantle and dissolve” police departments for violent crime along with the president’s past support for federal agents’ presence in Portland.
“Neither the president, defendant Barr, nor defendant Wolf gave any assurance that the ‘hundreds’ of federal agents flooding Chicago would leave protesters alone,” the activists’ lawsuit said. “At no time did they acknowledge that the federal government had overstepped in Portland. At no time did they agree that the federal law enforcement activities currently taking place in Portland would be limited to Portland.”