The Divided States of America

One of the photos that Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, circulated on Twitter after he met with federal officers at the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse last Thursday. Pictured on right in camouflage is a Portland police officer with the Special Emergency Reaction Team that provides dignitary protection. – Courtesy photo / Department of Homeland Security

What is going on?

Federal officers under the ruse of homeland security were sent to Portland, Ore. this month by President Trump to allegedly quell ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations. According to viral videos and countless news reports, these agents — who remain anonymous — have been grabbing protesters off the street and placing them in unmarked minivans since mid-July. Using what appears to be intimidation military tactics, the Trump-mandated insurgence patrols have been teargassing and beating protesters with batons — all caught on cell phone video.

Trump has announced he will send more camouflaged “troops” to Chicago and any other spot in the country where the administration considers civil unrest and rising crime to be anarchy.

Trump claims he is the law and order president and in effect now initiating what looks a lot like a frightening form of martial law.

These agents have exacerbated the level of discourse and created more violence in Portland.

“This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said earlier this month. “The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) condemned the use of Trump’s tactics on Twitter, saying the president and Homeland Security acting secretary Chad Wolf were “weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army.”

“Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street, we call it kidnapping,” said Jann Carson, the executive director of Oregon’s American Civil Liberties Union, describing the actions as “flat-out unconstitutional.” 

Trump’s most recent attack has been on predominantly peaceful protesters, especially in Portland. Attacking those who are expressing their First Amendment rights, Trump has ordered a new sort of militia which should make every American mad.

In a statement July 17, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said its agents had taken the  extraordinary and aggressive actions of detaining an individual as they “had information indicating the person in the video was suspected of assaults against federal agents or destruction of federal property.”

According to Oregonlive, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler plans to remain the head of the police bureau and the city is exploring legal action against federal officers being deployed during nightly protests.

“Wheeler also announced Monday that he joined the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Seattle and Washington D.C., sending letters to congressional, U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security leadership calling for the end of ‘unilateral deployment’ of federal officers into cities. Portland has had more than 50 straight nights of demonstrations since late May protesting systemic racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minnesota,” the newspaper wrote.

During Tuesday’s congressional hearing on the federal troop intervention, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr defended the unwanted and unwelcomed military style tactics.

“Remarkably, the response from many in the media and local elected offices to this organized assault has been to blame the federal government. To state what should be obvious, peaceful protesters do not throw explosives into federal courthouses, tear down plywood with crowbars, or launch fecal matter at federal officers. Such acts are in fact federal crimes under statutes enacted by this Congress.

“As elected officials of the federal government, every Member of this Committee — regardless of your political views or your feelings about the Trump Administration — should condemn violence against federal officers and destruction of federal property,” Barr said.

No mention was made about the well-documented, violent attacks on peaceful protesters.

Wednesday morning Oregon Governor Kate Brown said that after discussion with Vice President Mike Pence, the federal government had agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland. “They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting [Thursday], all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland,” the governor wrote on Twitter.

However, following Gov. Brown’s statement, Wolf said on Twitter that federal enforcement will remain in Portland until “the violent activity toward or federal facilities ends.” The acting DHS secretary added that ““The Department will continue to re-evaluate our security posture in Portland, and should circumstances on the ground significantly improve due to the influx of state and local law enforcement, we anticipate the ability to change our force posture.”


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