Public Rights Project

FOIA Request by Cities Seeks to Uncover Intentions for Deploying Federal Agents

"We are asking this administration to provide a constitutionally sound explanation for apparently unconstitutional targeting of Oakland and other progressive cities that honor free speech and recognize the critical importance of racial justice," Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement

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Oakland, six other cities and the nonprofit Public Rights Project are demanding from the Trump administration records on the deployment of federal agents to cities considered progressive, Oakland prosecutors said Wednesday.

The coalition filed a Freedom of Information Act request Wednesday about the threatened or actual deployment of the agents.

Prosecutors said that following the president's signature in June on an executive order that purports to allow the federal government to send its personnel to help protect federal monuments, statues, memorials and property, more than 100 officers were sent to Portland, Oregon, to quell protests over police brutality.

"We are asking this administration to provide a constitutionally sound explanation for apparently unconstitutional targeting of Oakland and other progressive cities that honor free speech and recognize the critical importance of racial justice," Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement.

Other cities in the coalition include New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle.

The coalition is requesting records created after the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.For more than three months, protests have been occurring in Portland to demand racial justice and an end to police brutality. At least one person has been killed, according to the Oregon governor's office. Vandalism has also occurred.

Prosecutors said federal law enforcement officers were violent with protesters. The president's administration has said it will deploy the officers to other cities and may block federal funding for three cities that are part of the coalition, prosecutors said.

The request also seeks information from federal officials on federal personnel sent to Albuquerque, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle, as well as any surveillance of the leaders of those cities.

"With this FOIA request, we intend to use the law to shine a light on the efforts to misuse federal power to target our cities," New York City Corporate Counsel James Johnson said in a statement. According to prosecutors, the coalition wants to understand the president's motivations for sending or threatening to send in federal agents and threatening to take away money from certain cities.

Prosecutors said there also is interest from the public in knowing whether President Donald Trump intends to use the tactics employed in Portland in connection with this year's presidential election in November.

Jonathan Miller, legal director for the Public Rights Project, said he doesn't believe the federal government's intentions in deploying agents to "progressive" cities has "legitimate purpose."

Prosecutors said they expect a response from federal officials in 20 days and will make the response public.

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the FOIA request or whether it will block funding for the coalition cities of Seattle, Portland and New York.

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