By Michael D’Onofrio
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia NAACP condemned President Donald Trump and his threat to send federal law enforcement to the city, fearing they would target African Americans.
“It would be only our communities — they’re not going to target white communities when they come in this city,” warned Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Muhammad pledged the civil rights organization would resist any deployment of federal agents into Philadelphia through legal action, saying, “Our battleground is the courtroom.”
The pushback from the NAACP came days after Trump said he might send more federal law enforcement to Philadelphia and other major cities headed by Democratic mayors.
The president has already deployed federal agents in Portland, Oregon, where unidentified federal law enforcement officers were driving around in unmarked vans and seizing protesters from the street, according to news reports.
Trump also is planning to send about 150 federal agents to Chicago this week, the Chicago Tribune has reported. Trump has blamed local leaders for violence in Chicago and other cities, including Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore.
As of Wednesday, Mayor Jim Kenney has not received any notification from the Trump administration that federal agents were coming to Philadelphia, Kenney spokesman Mike Dunn said in an email.
Kenney said in a written statement issued earlier this week that the the president’s threat was “wrong on many levels” and was “clearly a politicization of federal resources.” The mayor said the city would “use all available means to resist such a wrong-headed effort and abuse of power.”
Trump’s potential deployment of federal agents in Philadelphia, Muhammad said, amounted to a “community siege” and a “search-and-destroy” operation that would evaporate any progress the city has made toward police reforms.
“We should not be treated like war prisoners and/or enemies of the state,” Muhammad said.
The local branch of the NAACP is working with local lawyers to explore “all the legal means that we have at our disposal” to keep residents from being “secretly swept off the streets by unidentified federal agents,” Muhammad said.
“We’re always crying about how we hate Nazi Germany, but we are inviting that very kind of practice of the nightmare years that led to the rise of the Third Reich right in this city.”
James Buck, pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Germantown who accompanied Muhammad, was concerned federal agents would “arouse violence” in the city and questioned the “mental state” of the president and his inner circle.
Muhammad noted that Philadelphia could use federal assistance to reduce gun violence in neighborhoods of color.
“These troops,” he said, “could be more useful finding the gun-runners that are flooding our community with guns, flooding our community with drugs, flooding our community with every other measure that makes our life chances diminished.”