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WASHINGTON — D.C.’s mayor wants President Trump’s mystery troops off her streets.
In a fiery letter to Trump, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser demanded he withdraw any military presence and “extraordinary law enforcement” from the city. That includes the well-equipped riot officers who aren’t wearing insignias and have refused to identify themselves.
At least some of them are Bureau of Prisons officers, dispatched by Attorney General William Barr, who are specially trained in putting down inmate riots.
The federal officers’ presence is just making the already tense situation worse, according to Bowser, who slammed the “war-like tactic” of using low-flying helicopters to buzz protesters in an attempt to make them scatter.
“The deployment of federal law enforcement personnel and equipment are inflaming demonstrators,” Bowser wrote. “This multiplicity of forces can breed dangerous confusion, such as when helicopters are used in a war-like tactic to frighten and disperse peaceful protesters.”
Bowser ended the city’s state of emergency on Friday after violence appeared to recede following several days of unrest that accompanied protests against police brutality.
But it’s not clear Trump will listen to her demands. D.C.’s unique federal status limits Bowser’s ability to control what happens in her city. And it’s allowed the Trump administration to deploy federal agents patrol territory near the White House with extraordinary independence.
President Trump has openly mulled deploying the U.S. military against demonstrators around the country. But D.C. is a special case where he’s already been able to operate much more freely.
Control of the National Guard in D.C. illustrates the difference between the nation’s capital and regular states.
In Washington D.C., the president is the commander in chief of the area’s National Guard. In a normal state, the governor is in charge, until the president moves to federalize control.
That’s why Trump berated governors as “jerks” and “fools” for not deploying the National Guard in their states to quell unrest — but could turn them loose in D.C. himself without bothering to hurl insults at anyone first.
Barr has coordinated the use of federal officers around the White House, and his own statements have made it sound like a sprawling federal effort involving a host of different agencies.
On June 2, Barr thanked “the many federal law enforcement agencies and personnel who helped protect the District, including the FBI, Secret Service, Park Police, ATF, DEA, Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Marshals Service, Capitol Police, Department of Homeland Security’s CBP and Border Patrol units, and others.”
BOP director Michael Carvajal denied Thursday that they were deliberately trying to go incognito.
“I’m not aware of any specific Bureau of Prisons personnel being told not to identify themselves,” Carvajal told a press conference Thursday. “What I attribute that to is probably the fact that we normally operate within the confines of our institution, and we don’t need to identify ourselves.”
Some of the Bureau of Prison officers are also part of teams trained at stopping inmate riots known as Special Operations and Response Teams, the administration said Thursday.
There’s history there: In 1992, the BOP deployed 20 SORT teams to Los Angeles during the unrest caused by Rodney King’s violent beating by LAPD officers. Barr was the attorney general in 1992, too.
This time around, Bowser said the officers and the confusion they bring is making tensions worse — and she wants them gone.
“When citizens are unable to clearly identify legitimate law enforcement officers, it creates unnecessary risks for both protestors and officers,” she wrote. “In fact, we found many years ago that conflict between police and citizens is reduced when law enforcement affiliation is apparent.”
Cover: WASHINGTON DC - JUNE 4: Washington D.C. National Guard stand guard and provide limited access at the Lincoln Memorial as D.C. preps for another Day of George Floyd protests on June 4, 2020. Credit: mpi34/MediaPunch /IPX