Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday he doesn’t understand why President Donald Trump would send “more federal law enforcement” officers to Baltimore and that “I don’t know what they would do if they came” since the city’s protests have been largely peaceful.
Hogan, a Republican, addressed the issue after Comptroller Peter Franchot expressed concern during a Board of Public Works meeting about camouflaged federal agents — many with no name tags or markings to identify their agency affiliation -- who clashed with demonstrators in Portland, Ore.
Trump, also a Republican, said Monday that law enforcement in some cities “are restricted from doing anything” and that he would provide “more federal law enforcement” to several cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Oakland and Philadelphia.
“I don’t know what the comment was even about,” Hogan said during the online board meeting. “We’ve heard no real details about anything happening in Baltimore. And I don’t know what they would do if they came because we don’t have any protests like you’re seeing in Portland and Chicago and New York and other places like that.”
Protests on behalf of racial justice began in many cities in May following the death of George Floyd, who died after being pinned by the neck to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer. Baltimore has had dozens of protests and demonstrations in recent weeks, with almost no violence and very few arrests.
“Right now there is nothing going on in the streets of Baltimore but sometimes very peaceful protests,” Hogan said. “I am very proud of the way Baltimore has handled it. I’ve got quite a bit of experience about how to handle this kind of situation the right way, I think, from 2015.”
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said he would not sit idly by if the president decides to deploy federal agents to the streets of Baltimore.
”I was shocked by his announcement,” Frosh said. “It looked like it was sort of a seat-of-the-pants, ill-considered statement. But I think that drives a lot of his policy, so I take as a serious threat.”
In a forthcoming political memoir, Hogan portrays himself as a decisive leader who restored calm to Baltimore after rioting and unrest in 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured in police custody. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor at the time, recently accused Hogan of dismissing and devaluing the Black community in his narrative.
Hogan did condemn the recent toppling of a marble statue of Christopher Columbus that was deposited into Baltimore’s Jones Falls. “While we welcome peaceful protests and constructive dialogue on whether and how to put certain monuments in context or move them to museums through a legal process, lawlessness, vandalism, and destruction of property is completely unacceptable,” the governor posted on his social media accounts on July 5.
In Washington, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen joined fellow Democrats this week in introducing legislation to halt “federal paramilitary occupations in American cities,” according to a release about the bill.
““Donald Trump’s actions demonstrate that he is better equipped to run an authoritarian regime than be president of our great American democracy,” Van Hollen said.
A Baltimore police spokeswoman said the department has received no clarification of Trump’s remarks and could not comment.
A spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Wednesday that while the city maintains strong relationships with a slew of federal agencies, there has been no indication that Trump is sending in law enforcement to crack down on protesters.
“We value the federal government, but we don’t have the need for the federal government to be involved in protests,” Lester Davis said. “When we get into discussions around folks exercising their rights and protesting, there is no space or need for federal authorities.”
He said Baltimore has been a “gold standard” for the protests that have swept across the country after Floyd’s killings.
City Council President Brandon Scott pointed to Baltimore’s violent year with more than 185 homicides and said the president trying to exploit the pain of families and residents is not acceptable.
“In these most challenging times, it is not helpful for the President to use our city as a political prop to incite his base, and I will not stand by as threats are made that impact the safety and liberty of Baltimoreans,” Scott said. “As such, I have asked the City Solicitor to explore any actions the City can take to prevent the President of the United States from sending unwanted federal agents to Baltimore.
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If the federal force did arrive, Franchot suggested that “perhaps we could just take 300 or 400 of our own local law enforcement and state police and very peacefully put them in a professional protective kind of barrier around these brownshirts.”
Franchot said such a federal force amounted to “fascist tactics” and were “not welcome.”
Attorney General Frosh said he has been watching the actions of agents deployed to the protests in Portland.
”It seems like they may have exceeded, in a number of instances, the authority they were given by Congress,” Frosh said. “That authority was not, in our view, given to the Department of Homeland Security to essentially do local policing.
”If they come to Maryland, they’ll meet with resistance from our office,” Frosh said.