Mobs are taking over some U.S. cities, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said on July 6.
“From my perspective, this is no longer about peaceful protesting, this is about angry, violent, criminal mobs taking over certain cities,” Wolf said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”
“It’s very disturbing. It’s a lack of political leadership in that city.”
Violence is spiking in Chicago, New York, and other cities amid efforts to slash funding for police departments and ongoing protests and riots ostensibly sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in policy custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
Twenty-three people were shot in Atlanta, three fatally, on July 4, police officials said. At least 79 people were shot, with 15 dying, in Chicago over the holiday weekend, and 21 shootings took place in a nine-hour span in New York on July 5. Twenty-eight others were shot in Philadelphia over the weekend.
Officials in New York and Los Angeles recently approved cutting police funding, and leaders in Minneapolis are working on a complete replacement for the police department there.
Wolf believes the movement to defund the police is a contributing factor to violence in the cities, citing Portland as an example. The riots there have continued virtually unabated since last month, with violent demonstrators on a nightly basis targeting the Justice Center and a nearby federal courthouse.
Federal officers are ready to step in and help local law enforcement take control and stem the violence, but state and city leaders need to ask for federal help first, Wolf said.
“We can come in, as we did in D.C. last month, where we restored that law and order back to the city, stopped churches from being burned. We do have the ability to do this, we just need to be invited and have those state and local authorities ask for the federal government’s help,” he said.
“This is about law and order. And the president’s been very clear, we’re there to help them. I think any city that is having increases in violence, is burning, is having the rioting, the looting, it’s by choice at this point.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, in a separate appearance on Fox, said that governors and mayors ultimately bear the responsibility for law enforcement, citing the U.S. Constitution.
“But the president’s been doing everything on our part from the federal side and saying that this is unacceptable and it’s time for these Democrat governors and mayors to step up,” she said.
Nearly every top 20 city in terms of population in the United States is run by Democrat mayors.
An outspokenness against police will lead to law enforcement pulling back, which leads to violence, McEnany said.
President Donald Trump quoted Wolf on Twitter and inserted “Democrat run” in parentheses. In another post, he called on leaders in New York and Chicago to change their ways and thinking.
Police officials in New York took the unusual step of publicly calling out leadership as shootings piled up on July 5.
Assistant Chief Kathleen O’Reilly, commanding officer of the NYPD’s Manhattan North patrol borough, called the amount of people shot in the borough disgraceful.
“Where are the elected officials and violence interupter [sic]!! The community is suffering!!” she wrote in a tweet.
Assistant Chief Stephen Hughes denounced District Attorney Cy Vance in another message, calling him a “no show” as 24 people were shot in the city in 24 hours.
In a response statement, a Vance spokesman said that the office’s policy is to have assistance district attorneys attend crime scenes and regularly brief Vance.
“It’s unclear what the Manhattan District Attorney could substantively contribute at a crime scene,” he said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said there are multiple causes to the shootings.
“The fact that the court system’s not working, the economy’s not working, people have been pent up for months and months—so many issues underlying this challenge,” he said at a press conference on July 6.
One of the solutions, he said, is doubling down on community policing in Manhattan.
In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, said at a press briefing on July 5 that the people carrying out the shootings aren’t police officers.
“You can’t blame this on a police officer, you can’t say this is about criminal justice reform. This is about some people carrying some weapons who shot up a car with an 8-year-old baby in the car,” Bottoms said, urging people to refrain from violence.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day” that there were multiple factors in the shootings.
“The ecosystem of public safety, that isn’t just law enforcement, that is local, community-based, they too have really been hit hard by COVID, and they are just now coming back and getting their footing,” she said.
In statements on social media, the Democrat called for continuing to invest in street outreach work, policy-community relationships, and “in healing those who have been harmed by violence so that we can stop the cycle of retaliation.”