22 July 2020   Leave a comment

Like many others, I have been deeply disturbed by the deployment of security officials from the Department of Homeland Security dressed in camouflage, with no identifying insignia other than the simple word “police”, driving unmarked rental cars, and arresting people in Portland, Oregon. These individuals are dressed to look like combat troops, designed to intimidate protesters. The protests in Portland have been going on for almost two months and are focused on the Multnomah County Justice Center which serves as the Portland Police Bureau center.

As is the case with most protests, there is no central organizing group directing the protesters activities. The absence of such a group means that the protests have been relatively unorganized and there is no single spokesperson who can speak for the thousands of protesters. The protest narrative is therefore fragmented and partial. There is no question, however, how the Federal Government views the protests and US President Trump labels the protesters as “anarchists” who hate America. Free lance journalists are among the few sources of information that does not come from official sources.

Robert Evans, writing in his blog, has constructed a meticulous narrative of what has happened in Portland, poking holes in the official narrative that conjures up the specter of mass violence. It is a long post, with many video disturbing video excerpts of police misbehavior. But the conclusion is that the protesters have unquestionably defaced the Federal building and have hurled firecrackers and bottles at the security forces. But there is little evidence that the protests have become a major threat to life in Portland.

The Federal actions are dangerous and counterproductive. James Comey, the former Director of the FBI, writes in The Washington Post:

“With some protesters itching for street confrontations with officers in full tactical gear, federal officials are giving a small group of violent people what they want. And they are giving the citizens of Portland — and the rest of us, no matter our politics — what we don’t want: the specter of unconstrained and anonymous force from a central government authority. It has been the stuff of American nightmares since 1776.

“Fairly or unfairly, visions of Department of Homeland Security officers in camo without apparent identifying insignia dragging people into unmarked vans are now seared into the collective memory. Federal law enforcement, like all parts of the justice system, depends upon the faith and confidence of the American people, a credibility now being spent, recklessly, by the Trump administration. And the Department of Homeland Security, a key element of this administration’s chaotic and often immoral immigration enforcement, had precious little credibility left to spend in the first place. Thanks to Portland, its cupboard is now empty.

“And even if it weren’t behavior inconsistent with American values and self-defeating for the agencies involved, it is also just plain dumb to give protesters another sinister embodiment of the feds to rail against.”

Mr. Trump has indicated that he will be sending additional Federal forces to other cities, including Chicago which has experienced a dramatic increase in gun-related violence. These deployments will only fuel greater resentment, and it is interesting that the right-wing supporters of Mr. Trump fail to see the danger of Federal overreach. The scenes and actions of the Federal forces in Portland augurs ill for the future of democracy in the US. Militarizing local security is a step toward a totalitarian state.

Federal agents use crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, Ore. on July 20, 2020. Officers used teargas and projectiles to move the crowd after some protesters tore down a fence fronting the courthouse. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Posted July 22, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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