Operation Legend: A Fascist Wolf in Pig’s Clothing, Part 1

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Editors’ Note—In late July, we posted a letter from a reader titled, “Federal Pigs Deployed Against Protesters and Black Communities Across the U.S.: Two ‘Operations’—One Fascist Offensive.” The letter exposed two quasi-military operations launched by the Trump/Pence regime—Operation Diligent Valor and Operation Legend—which involve federal law enforcement forces being sent to different cities. As the letter analyzed, each of these operations “is an outrageous assault on the masses of people and on the constitutional rules and norms in the U.S.” This follow-up letter (which we are posting in two parts—part 1 here and part 2 to come soon) focuses on Operation Legend, which targets Chicago and other cities with large populations of Black and Latino people.

Operation Legend (OL) is an initiative launched by the Trump/Pence regime. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), its aim is to combat “disturbing increases in violent crime” by taking “the shooters and chronic violent criminals off of our streets,” and its method is to surge large numbers of federal agents into multiple cities to conduct joint operations with local police and sheriffs. OL also involves hiring hundreds more local pigs, and the purchase or maintenance of high-tech electronic surveillance systems.

OL began on July 8 with the announcement of a deployment of about 100 agents (later upped to 200) to Kansas City, Missouri. This was supposedly in response to the death of LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old Black child killed by a stray bullet while sleeping about a week earlier.1 But it expanded rapidly over the next 30 days, with hundreds more agents being sent to Chicago, and dozens more to Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis and Albuquerque. Philadelphia and Baltimore have also been targeted by OL.

On July 24, Trump publicly threatened to escalate much more dramatically, raising the specter of sending 50,000 to 75,000 agents into cities around the U.S.

Using the disguise of opposing violence, Operation Legend appears to be the spearhead of a major leap in violent repression of Black and Brown communities by the fascist regime, and, a major step towards wrenching political control of the U.S.’s major cities from the Democratic Party officials who now run most of them.

Responding to Mass Opposition to Police Violence by Unleashing and Empowering the Police

On one level, OL is building on a vast structure of federal, state and local police collaboration created over many decades. According to The Marshall Project, there are already over 1,000 “task forces” in the U.S. where local police work with and under federal agencies. Many of these task forces were developed as part of the so-called “War on Terror,” and the very real war against immigrants, as well as the campaign of mass incarceration carried out by both Democrats and Republicans for decades.

These task forces are not simply about “cooperation” between different levels and agencies—when the feds are involved, the repressive power of local forces is amped up tremendously.

First, many alleged crimes can be charged under either federal or state law, but federal charges generally carry much longer sentences. U.S. Attorney’s offices often have greater resources for prosecution. And people sentenced under federal law may be sent to prisons thousands of miles from their homes and families.

Second, these federal agents can deputize dozens or even hundreds of local cops, giving them much more power. Deputized police:

  • Are no longer under the authority of local mayors and police chiefs; they are under the direction of the fascist regime, via Attorney General Barr and/or head of Homeland Security Chad Wolf;
  • Are no longer held to local law and rules. For instance, in many cities, cops are required to wear body cameras, but once deputized they do not have to. Nor do they have to adhere to local standards for “use of deadly force”—which are often even looser on the federal level than in cities or states;
  • Can pursue suspects across state lines;
  • Are granted a very high level of immunity from prosecution. Regular local cops also routinely get away with brutalizing and murdering people. But especially in the wake of the large-scale national protests after the 2014 murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and even more so now with the murder of George Floyd, local authorities have felt tremendous pressure to reign in some of the worst brutal cops, even firing or indicting a few. But fascists like Trump and Barr have railed against this as “handcuffing” the police, and openly insisted the police should be more brutal, not less.

Federal task forces are a way around local constraints. The Marshall Project report gives a number of examples of these federalized cops getting away with egregious murders. In Austin in 2017, a deputized detective killed a man who was being “investigated”—a local grand jury indicted him for manslaughter, but the case was thrown out because of federal immunity. In Atlanta in 2016, deputized cops fired 100 bullets into a schizophrenic suspect who had never been convicted of anything besides driving misdemeanors, and again were protected from prosecution.

Third, these federal agents are not just deputizing existing local cops but are funding the hiring of dozens or even hundreds more. And they also make available to local forces the most deadly advanced weaponry and high-tech surveillance systems that allow them to spy on huge sections of the city.

So in the wake of months of protest by millions of people against police brutality and systemic racism, the fascist regime aims to unleash an offensive of well-funded, high-tech cops on eight (so far) major cities. Some of what this will mean became clear within weeks of the start of Operation Legend. In Kansas City, cops dressed in camouflage drove up on the lawn of a Black couple putting their small children in a car, pointing rifles at them, over mostly old charges that involved no violence.

The Fascist Regime Is Working to Take Direct Control of the Cities from the Democrats

But Operation Legend even goes beyond this amping up of police power over Black and Brown people. It is also a key link in the drive to consolidate a fully fascist form of rule, with unchallengeable power over both the masses and the regime’s ruling class opponents.

A contradiction facing the fascist forces is that they mainly control the federal government at this point (the executive branch, the Senate, and by and large the courts), and all the police and military power that goes with that—but city governments are largely controlled by Democratic mayors and city councils, and often police chiefs who more or less share or at least carry out their approach to maintaining the capitalist system. And the cities are not only the main centers of population and economic activity in the U.S.; they are also the centers of Black and Brown people, youth, intellectuals and professionals… all sections that tend to be somewhat or very hostile to the fascist regime. Consolidating fascism requires “dominating the streets”—beating these masses into submission—and dominating those sections of the ruling class who aren’t down with the whole fascist program. This is why Trump mobs have been chanting “Lock her up” (meaning Hillary Clinton) for four years, and why Trump himself accuses the Democrats and Obama of “conspiracy,” “treason,” etc.

And this is why OL has been characterized by being done behind the backs of and imposed on the local Democratic authorities. For instance, the mayor of Kansas City found out that hundreds of agents were coming to his city on Twitter. In Chicago, the FBI agent in charge of Operation Legend “would not disclose how long the influx of federal agents would last,” while in Albuquerque a DOJ spokesman simply refused to say how many federal agents were in the city.

The mayor of Albuquerque issued a statement saying “Operation LeGend … makes us less safe,” and the mayor and police chief of Detroit issued a statement that pointedly noted that the surge of feds “was not initiated by the City of Detroit.” These and a number of other city officials who initially criticized and distanced themselves from OL are also going along with it, while warning against federal forces being used against street demonstrations. But this discord reflects the fact that Operation Legend is not about “collaboration” between different levels of government, it is about subordination of the local Democratic leaders to the fascist federal authorities… and it is succeeding at that!

Another important aspect of this is building up direct ties between fascist cops and organizations in the cities and the national fascist core of the regime. In addition to the hundreds of local cops working directly under the feds on OL, the fascists are more broadly networking with those elements they see as “reliable,” while icing out those they do not.

Prominent in that first category are the rank and file cops and sheriffs, and their unions, that are mainly strong supporters of Trump. In fact, in Chicago, it was the head of the local police union who “invited” the feds to the city, and the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the cops “welcome the support from the feds.” They quote a sergeant saying, “The tact and gun teams love it.” There are police brass too who are more “in tune” with the regime; in Albuquerque, while the mayor and police chief both expressed public opposition to OL, the county sheriff traveled to DC to participate in the its founding press conference.

Through systematically building up networks of relationships, while maintaining a strong core of federal agents in each city under the direct authority of the Barr and Wolf, the regime is developing the ability to deploy these local enforcers not only “against the wishes” of local authorities but perhaps against those officials themselves.

This kind of capacity is particularly important as the presidential election—and a potential constitutional crisis—approaches. For instance, such armed forces can play a role in intimidating and suppressing the vote in the cities. And if Trump loses the election but still insists that he remain president, the ability to have armed forces loyal to Trump in the streets of major cities could be crucial to putting down protests and resistance.

Coming Soon: Operation Legend Part 2: Focus and Contradictions of "Gun Violence"


1. Speaking about the naming of Operation Legend, a protester in Kansas City told a reporter that LeGend “… does not deserve to be the poster child for martial law.” [back]

US Marshalls raid appartmentMembers of the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force raid an apartment in north Houston to apprehend a murder suspect. (Photo: AP)

Hundreds of federal agents for major leap in violent oppression of Black and Brown communitiesUsing the disguise of opposing violence, Operation Legend appears to be the spearhead of a major leap in violent repression of Black and Brown communities by the fascist regime. Here some of the hundreds of federal agents sent to Chicago. 

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