- Jitu Brownnational director of the Journey for Justice Alliance.
- Jesse Hagopianhigh school teacher of ethnic studies in Seattle and an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine. He serves on the national steering committee of Black Lives Matter at School.
As mayors in six cities call for the immediate removal of the president’s rapid deployment units and for Congress to investigate the tactics of federal authorities against antiracism protests, Trump says he may send troops to Chicago this week. “We’re looking at the infringement on our rights that is just escalating,” says Chicago activist Jitu Brown, national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. We also speak with Jesse Hagopian, a history teacher in Seattle, where Trump has also vowed to send federal officers to quell ongoing demonstrations.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Mayors in six cities are now calling for the immediate removal of President Trump’s rapid deployment units. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler made the demand in letters addressed to leading members of Congress, Attorney General William Barr and Homeland Security’s acting Secretary Chad Wolf. He was joined by Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. President Trump is expected to send federal agents to Chicago as early as this week to confront protesters. This is Trump speaking Monday.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.
AMY GOODMAN: And this is Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot responding to Trump in an interview on Joy Reid’s new show on MSNBC.
MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT: We still have a Constitution. We still have laws on the book. And I’m going to use those to deploy against them. We’re not going to have tyranny in the city of Chicago. It’s just not going to happen.
AMY GOODMAN: “It’s just not going to happen,” she says.
For more, we’re joined by two guests in cities where federal troops could be sent, after they’ve already been deployed in Portland. In Chicago, Jitu Brown is with us, national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance and a racial equity fellow with the Atlantic Institute; and in Seattle, Washingon, Jesse Hagopian, high school teacher of ethnic studies, co-editor of Teaching for Black Lives and editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, serving on the national steering committee of Black Lives Matter at School.
We are going to talk about Trump’s push for schools to reopen at all costs in a minute. But first, Jitu Brown, you are a longtime civil rights, human rights leader in Chicago. As you hear Lori Lightfoot says we’re not allowing tyranny to come to this city, your response to what President Trump is saying he will do?
JITU BROWN: Well, first of all, thank you for having me on, Amy. And saying I’m a longtime organizer is just saying I’m old. So, that’s OK. I can deal with that.
But I would just say that Mayor Lightfoot’s statements are the right statements, but it’s too late, you know, when you look at Chicago during the COVID — when the COVID outbreak first exploded, and we saw in cities where the Black death toll was way above that of our white counterparts. For example, in Chicago, we’re only 30% of the population, but we were 70% of the deaths. We saw checkpoints in places like Newark, New Jersey, where people had to show identification to get into different neighborhoods. We saw, as rebellion — after the murder of George Floyd and rebellions began to ensue around the country, I know in my neighborhood it was martial law. And, you know, my humble opinion is that it still is.
So, we’re looking at — regardless of the disaster or the moment, we are looking at the infringement on our rights that is just escalating, and they’re going further and further. So, you know, Donald Trump having federal agents come into Chicago is something that we should definitely be worried about, but we should not act as if our rights have not been infringed upon already, that, I mean, if you really want to talk about it, you can go back to the crime bill. And I remember when, as a young organizer, I saw Chicago police remove two busloads full of young people from the Ida B. Wells housing projects and take them to jail. And that opened the door for the mass incarceration of young Black and Brown men and women. And so, I think it’s really important that we keep this in context.
The last thing I’ll say is, along with the federal agents, the risk of federal agents in unmarked vehicles coming into our city, and what that means for people that are protesting, what that means for organizations, I think it’s also important to note that police have taken the gloves off. Just this past week in Chicago, a young organizer who I worked with, Miracle Boyd, who — when I met her, she was fighting to stop the closure of all the high schools in her neighborhood. She was protesting at an event where they were trying to protest a Christopher Columbus statue, and a Chicago police officer, as she was vigorously protesting, ran up on this 18-year-old girl and smashed her in the mouth with his baton and knocked her teeth out. We just had a press conference supporting Miracle yesterday. So, the brutality is not new. The infringement on our rights is not new. Whether the agent is Donald Trump or the agent of change or the agent of this type of infringement on our rights are Democrats, our rights are already being infringed upon.
AMY GOODMAN: Jesse Hagopian, before we go to the issue of forced school openings, I’m wondering if you can address — I mean, the activism in Seattle has been massive, from the CHAZ and the CHOP, the autonomous zones that were set up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, to what President Trump is threatening now. The Seattle mayor, Durkan, has joined other mayors, five other mayors, in writing a letter demanding federal agents not come to Seattle.
JESSE HAGOPIAN: Yes. Thanks for having me on the show again, Amy. I really appreciate it.
And it truly is chilling to think that Trump is getting ready to send federal troops, unmarked, to come to my city and snatch people and disappear them from our streets. And I think that as a history teacher, I know that this type of behavior of disappearing protesters is really the mark of dictatorial and fascist regimes throughout history. And it’s also, though, been the mark for far too many of our own people here in the United States. I think we’re getting to see now on national television what undocumented immigrants have had to go through for years, and, frankly, Black and Brown families who have had their loved ones snatched and put behind bars in this mass incarceration regime for far too long.
But I will say that our Mayor Jenny Durkan’s posturing against Trump is just that, because for all her rhetoric about how she doesn’t need federal interference, in fact, she has gone along with a lot of the policies that Trump would like. Here in Seattle, a mass of protesters helped to drive the police out of the East Precinct after they indiscriminately tear-gassed and brutalized protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s horrific murder. And Trump called the protesters terrorists and said he was going to send in troops here to deal with the situation if Jenny Durkan wouldn’t. And while she said, “We don’t need your federal interference,” she in fact did clear out the protesters with same brutal tactics. And so that’s why I’m supporting Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now’s demands that we defund the police by 50%, that we use that money for health and safety, and that we free all the protesters.