You cannot have missed it these past two weeks – the clashes, between protesters and some shady, heavily armed paramilitary force in the streets of downtown Portland, Oregon.
Black Lives Matter demonstrators have been dragged off in unmarked cars, locked up in what one described as a “nondescript” location and later released without being told why or by whom they were arrested.
One protester was hit in the face with a “munition” - whatever that is – 12 days ago and is still in hospital recovering from facial reconstruction surgery.
Christopher David, a 53-year-old Navy veteran, was beaten and pepper sprayed for trying to ask a question of these “soldiers”. He was left with two broken fingers. Take a look:
Wednesday night, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed by the federal force as he spoke to demonstrators.
Please think hard about what is happening in Portland. Please think about how you would perceive it if it were happening in another country – that is, unidentified people in combat uniforms, wielding batons and guns attacking their fellow citizens.
This is happening in America. Right here. Right now. And President Trump has already sent similar troops to Chicago and Albuquerque this week to shut down what he says are “heinous acts of violence.” He says more will be sent to other cities all of which, he admits, are run by Democrats.
”Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, tweeted on Tuesday evening: 'Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump's troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our residents.'
“Earlier in the day, she said she would 'welcome actual partnership, but we do not welcome dictatorship.'
“And New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich tweeted after being informed the operation was expanding to Albuquerque that federal law enforcement wasn't welcome.
"'Given the mess it created in Portland, I let him know in no uncertain terms that this isn't the kind of 'help' that Albuquerque needs,' he wrote on Twitter.”
These armed men (women too?) can only be called secret police. Their faces are fully covered with gas masks. Their camouflage uniforms are empty of agency identification, badge numbers and personal names. They carry fearsome weapons.
Apparently, these troops are members of several participating federal agencies led by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It is said they were mobilized to Portland to quell attacks on a local federal building.
By the time this force arrived in Portland on 4 July, daily protests in Portland – begun in the wake of the murder of George Floyd - had dwindled to no more than a hundred or so demonstrators but the presence and violence of the federal forces have swelled their numbers again.
Beginning last weekend, the protesters were joined by “The Wall of Moms” - hundreds of local mothers in yellow shirts who stand in front of the protesters each evening to protect them from the federal troops.
Portland officials did not ask for these soldiers and have all but begged the acting DHS chief, Chad Wolf, to withdraw what is, essentially, an occupying army. Mayor Wheeler, Oregon Governor Kate Brown and both Oregon Senators have called for the troops to leave.
The attorney general of Oregon and the ACLU have each sued the federal government on Constitutional grounds.
As part of these attacks on American citizens by federal troops, Trump has taken to calling himself the “law and order president.”
His base loves their law-and-order and Trump is way behind in recent election polls so these street clashes, which appear to be provoked by the federal troops, will supply just kind of footage Trump wants for his campaign videos.
Public demonstrations are protected by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. But if the armed federal troops Trump sends into cities can goad demonstrators and others into damaging federal buildings – graffiti seems to be enough cause for bodily harm to the protesters - he can make a plausible case that troops are defending federal property.
What I see is an insurgency of anonymous federal troops taking over the job of local police without being asked to do so and behaving like storm troopers. It feels to me like Portland is a dress rehearsal for more of the same and maybe worse in bigger cities.
Most of us who read this blog were around when the last law-and-order president ran for re-election in 1968. It was an ugly time in the United States then, it is uglier now (and I'm not even counting the pandemic).
There seems to be no way to stop Trump no matter what laws or norms he ignores. I am deeply worried for the safety of the demonstrators and not incidentally, for our democracy. Something terrible is happening in our country.
Are you following this? What's your take?