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Evers: 'Strong opposition' to White House sending federal agents to Milwaukee

Evers: ’Strong opposition’ to White House sending federal agents to Milwaukee

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that federal agents will be in Milwaukee to combat violent crime.

It will happen over the next three weeks, according to a statement on the White House website. 

Gov. Tony Evers said he was “deeply disturbed” to hear that federal officers could be placed in Milwaukee.

"The 'amping' up of the federal presence will, I believe, create more turmoil," Evers said during his Thursday media briefing.

Evers backs First Amendment rights and supports local authorities.

In the letter to Pres. Trump, Gov. Evers wrote "this is not a moment to double down and necessarily increase police presence, especially without invitation. As we have seen in Portland, this excessive and unwelcome federal law enforcement presence only makes these situations more volatile and dangerous." 

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said he’s still in the dark on federal plans, and their support is a little late.

“There was a chance for meaningful legislation to be passed when it came to universal background checks, when it came to investing money on the front end, in education and jobs," Barnes explained.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said “Operation Legend” does not mean “federal troops” will occupy Milwaukee.

Instead, it will be the FBI, ATF, DEA and the U.S. Marshals.

Trained investigators will partner with state and local officials, focusing on those who cause most of the violence.

The Department of Homeland Security said "Operation Legend" is separate from the federal response to protests in Portland. The White House says it's sending agents to assist local police. 

There's no indication how many officers would be sent to Milwaukee. 

The Department of Justice is sending 200 agents to Chicago and about 35 to Albuquerque. 

“I’ve seen them on TV grabbing protesters, and kidnapping them," Congresswoman Gwen Moore said of federal troops in their response to other states.

Moore also said she wants clarity on the federal mission and accountability.

“I don’t trust that they won’t deploy these agents into our town, theoretically to round up murderers, and find themselves, interfering with our peaceful democracy," she added.

In a statement, Mayor Tom Barrett called for clear and monitored limits of federal activities.

He wrote, "Given the events that have taken place in Portland over the last few nights, I am extremely concerned that President Trump is looking for opportunities to create more political division in cities across the nation. Federal agents are not welcome here for that purpose. If the federal presence is to truly cooperate with local law enforcement, then it is imperative the limits of their activities are clearly delineated and monitored."

Republican State Rep. Jim Steineke tweeted his opposition, but still criticized the actions of the governor and the mayor.

He wrote “The incompetence of the MKE Mayor & Gov to deal w/this doesn’t excuse the overreach. #federalism”

The U.S. Attorney's Office is set to give more details about “Operation Legend” as early as Friday, July 24.

The federal plan was inspired by the death of a four-year-old boy in Kansas City, Missouri.

Attorney General Josh Kaul issued the following statement Thursday:

"If the Trump administration were serious about protecting the safety of Wisconsinites, it would be leading an effective national response to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the administration is feverishly attempting to distract attention from that colossal—and continuing—failure through the tool it knows best: stoking chaos and division.
During this administration, and especially in recent weeks, we have witnessed the President employing fascist tactics, including his demonization of immigrants, his attacks on communities with large minority populations and the elected representatives of those communities, the blatantly illegal use of force against protesters near the White House, and the deployment of secret federal police to Portland over the objections of state and local officials.

I don’t use the phrase “fascist tactics” lightly. But there is no more accurate way to describe this administration’s repeated resort to and incitement of racism, xenophobia, and violence.

In the context of recent events, the Trump administration’s announcement today can only be expected to increase concern and division. Moreover, it fails to include any commitment that agents will participate in long-term, intensive investigations that can lead to real improvements in public safety. I am concerned that this is no more than a short-term stunt, and I encourage our federal representatives to oppose this action unless and until the Trump administration commits to working collaboratively with state and local officials and is much more transparent about its plans.

I have great respect for the dedicated federal agents and prosecutors in Wisconsin and across the country who work day in and day out to make communities safer. Under ordinary circumstances, I would welcome the announcement of additional federal resources to help solve and prevent violent crimes in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has made it abundantly clear that it’s happy to politicize law enforcement; the administration’s actions must be met with great skepticism.

My office will continue working to learn more about the plans for the additional agents coming to Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Justice works to protect the public, and we are happy to work with additional federal agents if there is transparency, collaboration, and it’s clear that the agents will be working to reduce violent crime. However, if the agents will be interfering with peaceful protests or attempting to build arrest statistics without a broader concern for improving public safety, I will be speaking out against their presence here, and I will take any appropriate legal action."

Read the entire letter to Pres. Trump here: 

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