A Republican state lawmaker has asked the Trump administration to send in federal law enforcement to Denver to quell what he considered lawlessness and restore “law and order.” Colorado’s top Democrats say the suggestion is unnecessary and could only lead to further inflammation of tensions.
“I officially request that your administration expand its 'Operation Legend' efforts to include Colorado, specifically in the city of Denver as violent, deadly crime is on an upswing according to many news reports. Sadly, the violence is being largely ignored by radical Democrats who are in a position to stop it,” said Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Dave Williams in a letter dated July 23.
Williams also noted an altercation this past weekend when a pro-police rally was met by counter-protesters.
“Operation Legend” has been billed by the Trump administration as a coordinated law enforcement initiative to aid local police.
“I’m announcing a surge of federal law enforcement into American communities plagued by violent crime,” said President Donald Trump on Wednesday. “We’ll work every single day to restore public safety, protect our nation’s children, and bring violent perpetrators to justice. We’ve been doing it, and you’ve been seeing what’s happening all around the country. We’ve just started this process, and, frankly, we have no choice but to get involved.”
Denver has seen a historic number of homicides so far this year, with eight people killed in the first eight days of July alone.
During a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis addressed Williams' letter, noting the lawmaker did not speak for the state: "The state of Colorado has not requested federal troops. A Coloradan has," Polis said.
“If we need them I won’t hesitate to call upon President Trump and federal support,” Polis said. He added that federal law enforcement would not be his first choice to deal with protests or violence in the city.
“I would turn to the National Guard resources to do that before I would call for troops that are not under my command.”
He later told CPR in a statement that he would oppose federal law enforcement involvement.
Meanwhile, every Democratic state lawmaker in the Colorado legislature, 60 members, sent a letter to Jason Dunn, the United States Attorney for Colorado, saying that they watched in “shock and horror” at what is happening in Portland, Oregon.
“We see both the deployment of these agents and the excessive force they have used as an unwarranted overreach on behalf of the federal government. Unmarked government vans scooping up citizens exercising their constitutional right to protest belong on the pages of dystopian novels, not the streets of the United States of America. We categorically object to these actions,” stated the letter.
Earlier this week, Polis said he was not aware of anything like that happening in Colorado.
“We'd have no indication or reason to believe that that is occurring. Obviously I share the concern that many have that any federal actions are fully accountable, fully transparent and consistent with our rights as individuals.”
Polis said he thought it would be hard for federal agents to operate undetected in Denver for long. “There's going to be 16 people filming it on their iPhones. So, whether I were to find out about it that way, or through official channels, I'm confident that if it occurred here, we would all know about it pretty quickly,” Polis said on Tuesday.
He told CPR in a statement that he would be very concerned if federal law enforcement started getting involved.
“I am disturbed to learn that anyone is pushing for the potential violation of people’s Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights. The state of Colorado has not asked for federal troops and we do not want federal law enforcement in Colorado.”
Williams’ letter also discussed vandalism at the state capitol, which could take more than $1 million and months of work to repair. The building’s windows, doors and outside walls have been damaged and graffitied during the protests against racism and police violence that began in May. Williams said Polis is “charged by law” to protect the Colorado Capitol building, and believes he hasn’t done so.
The Colorado State Patrol is responsible for the security of the capitol building and its grounds. A spokesman said state patrol works in conjunction with Denver police and noted that it’s up to Denver prosecutors to determine how any possible criminal charges against vandalizers should be handled.
In a statement at the time, Polis lauded the arrests and said he hoped it would provide a breakthrough into investigations of damage to public property.