CHICAGO – Amid a surge in gun violence and protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, the nation's third-largest city is on edge, awaiting possible greater tension in the form of a plan by President Donald Trump to dispatch dozens of federal agents to Chicago.
The White House plan emerged days after a downtown protest over a statue of Christopher Columbus devolved into a chaotic scene of police swinging batons and demonstrators hurling frozen water bottles, fireworks and other projectiles at officers. Then, on Tuesday in another neighborhood, a spray of bullets from a car passing a gang member's funeral wounded 15 people and sent dozens running for their lives.
Tension in the city has climbed to a level that, if not unprecedented, has not been felt in a long time.
“I’ve never seen things worse in this city than they are right now,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest and longtime activist on the city’s South Side.
Much of the strain stems from the fact that it remains unclear exactly what the federal officers will do here. The plan seems to be a repeat of what happened in Kansas City, Missouri, where the administration sent officers to help quell violence after the shooting death of a young boy.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot sought to tamp down fear that the surge will resemble the kind of scene that unfolded in Portland, Oregon, where unidentified agents in camouflage have beaten unarmed protesters and stuffed some of them into unmarked vehicles.
Lightfoot said she has been told the U.S. Attorney’s Office will supervise the additional agents supporting the Chicago offices of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
But given the longstanding animosity between city officials and Trump, leaders from the mayor on down worry that those promises will not hold up.