DETROIT – The controversial federal crime-fighting initiative, “Operation Legend,” has been active in Detroit and other U.S. cities for several weeks -- and officials say it has led to thousands of arrests and hundreds of indictments nationwide.
The Trump Administration launched the operation on July 8 to address increased gun and gang violence in Kansas City, and later expanded the initiative to Chicago and Albuquerque on July 22, and then to Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee on July 29.
Though the initiative’s focus is to fight violent crime, the increased presence of federal agents has not been welcomed by all residents across the major U.S. cities -- including in Detroit.
Increased presence of federal agents stirs unrest in U.S. cities
When President Trump first announced the expansion of the initiative to additional cities outside of Kansas City, a number of Americans were concerned that incoming federal agents would disrupt recent national protests against racism and police brutality.
That concern was fueled by the situation in Portland, in which federal agents were deployed to respond to the city’s protests. Unidentified agents reportedly stripped protesters from the streets of Portland amid the growing unrest.
Federal agents’ presence in Portland led to increased tension and violence between the community and law enforcement, leaving others worried about what Operation Legend might bring to their city.
Operation Legend impact in Detroit
So far, officials say that the federal agents have been working with state and local law enforcement to fight violent crimes in the major U.S. cities.
Through the initiative, 41 people have been reportedly charged with federal offenses in Detroit, including narcotics-related and firearms-related offenses. Authorities say that as of August 31, Operation Legend has led to the arrests of more than 2,000 people -- with 476 of them charged with federal offenses -- in participating cities nationwide.
Officials clarified in July that the federal agents coming to Detroit under Operation Legend are in no way connected to the city’s protests over racism and police brutality -- which have largely been peaceful in recent months. Still, a number of people have condemned the increased presence of federal agents in the city, saying they are not welcome in Detroit.
The group Detroit Will Breathe has been leading the movement against increased presence of federal agents in the city, hosting protests throughout the month of August.
One of the group’s organized protests against Operation Legend turned violent, leaving a number of protesters injured or in custody. On August 22, more than 40 of at least 100 protesters were arrested in Downtown Detroit amid a demonstration on Woodward Avenue.
The protest went smoothly until about midnight, when police armed with riot gear began warning the crowd to disperse.
Footage captured by Local 4 shows police spraying the crowd with what appears to be pepper spray. Police then arrested the leader of Detroit Will Breathe, Tristan Taylor, along with 41 other protesters.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig says Detroit Will Breathe created a social media post about how members were planning to occupy the intersection of Woodward Avenue and John R Road until the federal agents with Operation Legend left town.
“I am not going to let any group set up a Seattle zone of lawlessness in the city of Detroit,” Craig said. “That is non-negotiable.”
Now three internal investigations have been launched after videos and allegations surfaced of an officer hitting someone in the head with a baton, a protester on the ground being pepper sprayed and another person getting seriously injured.
Following the protest, Detroit Will Breathe is now suing the city of Detroit and the police department for use of excessive force.
Operation Legend is also currently active in St. Louis, Memphis and Indianapolis as of August. Officials say that across all participating cities, law enforcement have seized 544 firearms, more than seven kilograms of fentanyl, 14 kilograms of heroin, 12 kilograms of cocaine and 50 kilograms of methamphetamine.