President Trump’s troubling deployment of paramilitary federal troops to quell protests in Portland, Ore., has only worsened problems there. And his determination to send similar forces to other American cities should concern freedom-loving people everywhere.
In Portland, a largely liberal city where demonstrations and protests sparked by the death of George Floyd have been ongoing, unidentified men wearing camouflage and carrying high-powered weapons have been videotaped picking up pedestrians and carrying them away in unmarked vehicles to undisclosed locations.
In one instance, an agent in street clothes told someone filming him, “If you follow us, you will be shot.” Among peaceful protesters who were physically assaulted was Navy veteran Chris Davis. Neither Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler nor Oregon Gov. Kate Brown asked for or were aware that the loose affiliation of federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Protective Service was coming. Brown called their presence “a blatant abuse of power,” and Wheeler described it as “an attack on our democracy.”
But acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf defended their presence. And Trump announced that he was taking the show on the road, sending hundreds of federal agents to Chicago and other American cities.
According to local officials, the protests in Portland had been dying down, but the arrival of federal agents rejuvenated them. Last week, the number of peaceful protesters grew significantly, led one night by a group that called itself “a wall of moms,” linking arms and chanting, and the next night by “dads with leaf blowers.” They were met with batons, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Former Homeland Security Secretaries Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge have criticized the federal actions in Portland. Ridge said that Homeland Security was acting like “the president’s personal militia.”
“It would be a cold day in hell before I would consent to an uninvited, unilateral intervention into one of my cities,” Ridge said.
Some protesters have been unjustifiably violent and destructive, but that doesn’t give license to federal officers to treat peaceful protesters brutally. And it’s extremely concerning that federal agents would be deployed with no invitation, no notice, little identification and little accountability. Their actions invite comparisons to countries that “disappear” political dissenters, like China and Egypt.
Despite the overreach in Portland, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has tentatively agreed to work with federal police. But, “under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump’s troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our residents,” she tweeted on Thursday.
As for Trump’s motive for this move, it’s clearly political. But don’t take our word for it. Take his. The president has described the problem, not as “violence in American cities,” but in cities “all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by the radical left. If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”
He’s Donald J. Trump and he approved this campaign message.
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