Staring Down the Barrel of Martial Law

Yesterday, from The Guardian:

The former acting director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which works under the Department of Homeland Security, has condemned the Trump administration’s handling of protests in Portland by deploying federal agents into the city.

John Sandweg, the former acting director of Ice, who also served as general counsel for the DHS, said Dxxxx Txxxx was using the agency as his own “goon squad”. . . .

From today’s Guardian:

America is “staring down the barrel of martial law” as it approaches the presidential election, a US senator from Oregon has warned as Dxxxx Txxxx cracks down on protests in Portland, the state’s biggest city.

In interviews with The Guardian, Democrat Ron Wyden said the federal government’s authoritarian tactics in Portland and other cities posed an “enormous” threat to democracy, while his fellow senator Jeff Merkley described it as “an all-out assault in military-style fashion”.

In the early hours of Saturday, thousands of protesters gathered again outside the federal courthouse in the city, shooting fireworks at the building as teargas, dispensed by US agents, lingered above. . . . At around 2.30 am, agents marched down the street, clearing protesters with gas at close range. They also extinguished a fire outside the courthouse.

The independent watchdogs for the US justice and homeland security departments said on Thursday they were launching investigations into the use of force by federal agents, including instances of unidentified officers in camouflage gear snatching demonstrators off the streets and spiriting them away in unmarked vehicles.

But Txxxx this week announced a “surge” of federal law enforcement to Chicago and Albuquerque, in addition to a contingent already in Kansas City. The move fueled critics’ suspicions that the president was stressing a “law and order” campaign theme at the expense of civil liberties.

Wyden said in a statement: “The violent tactics deployed by Dxxxx Txxxx and his paramilitary forces against peaceful protesters are those of a fascist regime, not a democratic nation.”

Speaking by phone, he said: “Unless America draws a line in the sand right now, I think we could be staring down the barrel of martial law in the middle of a presidential election.”

Military control of government was last imposed in the US in 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In current circumstances it would entail “trashing the constitution and trashing people’s individual rights”, Wyden warned.

The senator recalled a conversation with a legal adviser for the head of national intelligence.

“I asked him again and again what was the constitutional justification for what the Txxxx administration is doing in my home town and he completely ducked the questions and several times said, ‘Well, I just want to extend my best wishes to your constituents.’
“After I heard him say it several times, I said my constituents don’t want your best wishes. They want to know when you’re going to stop trashing their constitutional rights.”

Txxxx has falsely accused his election rival, Joe Biden, of pledging to “defund the police” so violent crime will flourish. Democrats condemn Txxxx for a made-for-TV attempt to distract both from Black Lives Matter protests and his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, now killing more than 1,000 Americans a day.

“I wish the president would fight the coronavirus half as hard as he attacks my home town,” Wyden said. “I think he’s setting up an us-against-them kind of strategy. He’s trying to create his narrative that my constituents, who are peaceful protesters, are basically anarchists, sympathisers of anarchists and, as he does so often, just fabricate it.
“Txxxx knows that his [coronavirus] strategy has been an unmitigated disaster. The coronavirus is spiking in various places and he’s trying to play to right wing media and play to his base and see if he can kind of create a narrative that gives him some traction.”

The Portland deployment, Operation Diligent Valor, involves 114 officers from homeland security and the US Marshals Service, according to court documents. Local officials say their heavy-handed approach, including teargas and flash grenades, has merely enflamed demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice. The justice department-led Operation Legend involves more than 200 agents each in Kansas City and Chicago as well as 35 in Albuquerque. [Its stated purpose is to target] violent crime.

Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, has vowed to resist the federal intervention.
“We’re not going to allow the unconstitutional, state-sanctioned lawlessness we saw brought to Portland here in Chicago,” she said on Thursday.

Merkley offered words of advice.

“I would say that you probably don’t believe that these federal forces will attack protesters if the protesters are peaceful and you will be wrong because that’s exactly what they’re doing in Portland,” he told The Guardian.

“This is an all-out assault in military-style fashion on a peaceful-style protest. The way to handle graffiti is put up a fence or come out and ask people to stop doing it, not to attack a peaceful protest but that’s exactly what happened. It’s very clear what the president is trying to do is incite violence and then display that violence in campaign ads. And I say this because that’s exactly what he’s doing right now. This is not some theory.”



It Would Be Great To Focus On Good News

But it must be noted that the deformed human being in the White House now has unidentifiable law enforcement officers deployed on the streets of Portland, Oregon, over the objections of the mayor, the governor, the state’s two senators and members of the House of Representatives.

These officers — dressed up like they’re facing imminent combat — are driving around in unmarked vans, picking up people off the street, with no justification, and then taking them somewhere to be questioned, without explaining why they’re being detained.

So far, there’s no evidence that anybody they’ve picked up has been “disappeared” (e.g. flown away in a helicopter and dropped over the Pacific Ocean), but the officials’ behavior is standard practice under authoritarian regimes. They’re already calling the protesters “violent anarchists”. The next step would be to hype the supposed danger to public order even further and declare martial law.

These events were first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Street

Local officials and the ACLU have filed lawsuits to remove the federal presence, but the president’s cronies who run the Department of Homeland Security say it’s only the beginning.

The New York Times reports that the situation is deteriorating:

An aggressive federal campaign to suppress unrest in Portland appears to have instead rejuvenated the city’s movement, as protesters gathered by the hundreds late Friday and into Saturday morning — the largest crowd in weeks.

Federal officers at times flooded street corridors with tear gas and shot projectiles from paintball guns, while demonstrators responded by shouting that the officers in fatigues were “terrorists” and chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets.”

A court ruling has largely prohibited local police from using tear gas during the recent protests, which have played out for more than 50 consecutive nights in Portland.

While the protesters have repeatedly decried the city’s own police tactics, Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner, and other leaders have united in calls for federal agencies to stay away. City commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty went to join protesters gathered outside the county Justice Center downtown, saying the city will “not allow armed military forces to attack our people.”

“Today we show the country and the world that the city of Portland, even as much as we fight among ourselves, will come together to stand up for our Constitutional rights,” Ms. Hardesty said Friday.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo explains the government’s deception in a Twitter thread:

When you go to a federal courthouse and you see security there you probably realize it’s not the local [police department]. They’re federal agents. Since 2002 [Federal Protective Services] has been housed with [the Department of Homeland Security]. The White House and acting officials at DHS are now using this jurisdiction over federal facilities as a hook to make [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and [Customs and Border Patrol] into a sort of federal political police, run by acting appointees at DHS and responding to the President’s campaign needs.

They are saying that they’ve authorized ICE and CBP to operate in support of the FPS mission. In other words, in their view it’s not really CBP it’s just officers backing up FPS. But of course there’s nothing happening that FPS can’t handle on its own. But through this hook of jurisdiction over federal installations, CBP is now assuming police powers over anyone either spray painting on federal facilities or who simply might be protesting near one. Because there have been some instances of vandalism against federal buildings and monuments, this is the hook through which DHS has authorized CBP and ICE as what amounts to Txxxx’s private police force or domestic security service. It’s no accident that it’s ICE and CBP. They’re among the most politicized federal police agencies, most . . . organizational loyal to and supportive or Txxxx’s agenda and political ambitions.

The problem, of course, is that the truly dangerous “violent anarchists” in Portland are dressed for combat and paid by our tax dollars. See the video below.