It has become abundantly clear that Donald Trump’s neofascist regime recognizes that it is in grave danger of being swept out of power this autumn by a blue tsunami. In a desperate attempt to avoid that fate, Trump and his minions have deliberately targeted the Pacific Northwest’s major cities (Portland and Seattle) as places where they can use federal law enforcement personnel to instigate conflicts that will be helpful in riling up their base and spreading fear.
Leaders in the Pacific Northwest are rightly furious about this, and speaking out.
On July 20th, Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon spoke on the Senate floor against deploying “unwanted paramilitary forces” into American cities.
“What we have seen in the last ten days in Portland has been horrific and unconscionable,” said Merkley. “Federal forces have shot an unarmed protester in the head with impact munitions, and paramilitary forces in camouflage have been grabbing people off the streets and putting them into unmarked vans.”
“These are the actions of an authoritarian regime, not a democratic republic. This gross violation of Americans’ civil rights must end immediately.”
“What Donald Trump is doing is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy laid out by our founders and expanded through the generations., said Wyden. “What Donald Trump is doing is totally out of control.”
The official response has been the creation of the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act, which would limit the use of federal officers for crowd control, mandate individual and agency identification for each federal officer responding to crowds and demonstrations, require deployments to be disclosed and specified via a related federal agency’s website within twenty-four hours of such a deployment, and make arrests in violation of these rules unlawful.
Later that same evening, between one and two thousand protesters marched to the Multnomah County Justice Center and Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse with a “Wall of Moms” in yellow and an assembly of self-identified dads in orange shirts and hazard vests. They were met by federal officers who threatened to shoot demonstrators via their green laser target lights and dispersed them via tear gas and flash-bang grenades.
On July 22nd, the city of Portland sent a cease and desist letter to the federal authorities to remove a metal fence which has been used to keep out protesters.
(Fences in relation to the Portland demonstrations have a history.)
Later that evening, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined the demonstrators, and was heckled by some of them. The hostile reception was predictable given that Wheeler has, in the past, allowed the Portland Police to use tear gas against these same demonstrators and, while technically in charge of the Portland Police Bureau, has allowed Portland police to hide their identification when coordinating their activity with federal law enforcement officers.
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has accused both of exacerbating the violence in Portland, while Mayor Wheeler has questioned Commissioner Hardesty’s recent claims that Portland Police have embedded themselves into crowds and set fire to properties in order to frame demonstrators for arson.
On Thursday, July 23rd, Judge Michael H. Simon — who serves on the United States District Court bench in the Court’s Oregon jurisdiction — issued an order to ban for fourteen days all federal officers from using dispersal orders, threats or force against any journalist or legal observer documenting the demonstrations in downtown Portland. In his decision, he stated: “None of the government’s proffered interests outweigh the public’s interest in accurate and timely information about how law enforcement is treating protesters.”
This evening, a smaller demonstration took place at the Justice Center, where E.D. Mondainé, a Portland pastor and president of the local NAACP, asked that focus of future demonstrations be re-focused on the Black Lives Matter movement and the unwarranted deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police.
While the Trump regime’s targeting of Portland has attracted national and international attention, it’s not the only Northwest city Trump and his minions have plans for. Seattle is also on the target list, and as it turns out, has had special federal personnel in the city since early July.