By Robert A. Vella
This is what all authoritarians do. This is what fascists especially do. This is what Donald Trump is doing right now. Faced with looming defeat in the November election, America’s megalomaniacal president is deploying paramilitary secret police to trigger urban violence in a desperate attempt to shift public attention away from his disastrous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. Under the thinly-veiled guise of officialdom, these select militia forces are operating without identifying insignias in order to avoid accountability for provocative actions which clearly violate due process of law and civil rights protections established in the U.S. Constitution. The historical parallels to such abuses of power are painfully obvious. From Wikipedia:
The Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (MVSN, “Voluntary Militia for National Security”), commonly called the Blackshirts (Italian: Camicie Nere, CCNN, singular: Camicia Nera) or squadristi (singular: squadrista), was originally the paramilitary wing of the National Fascist Party, known as the Squadrismo, and after 1923 an all-volunteer militia of the Kingdom of Italy under Fascist rule, similar to the SA in Nazi Germany. Its members were distinguished by their black uniforms (modelled on those of the Arditi, Italy’s elite troops of World War I) and their loyalty to Benito Mussolini, the Duce (leader) of Fascism, to whom they swore an oath. The founders of the paramilitary groups were nationalist intellectuals, former army officers and young landowners opposing peasants’ and country labourers’ unions. Their methods became harsher as Mussolini’s power grew, and they used violence and intimidation against Mussolini’s opponents.
In Portland, Trump’s secret police appears to have been formed from disparate agencies within the Department of Homeland Security – such as the Border Patrol – from which specific militarized organizations loyal to Trump could be recruited and mobilized. The fact that Oregon is not a border state adds strong circumstantial evidence to this assertion. Their primary intent seems to be intimidation through the use of force. Many of the protesters they arbitrarily abducted from the city streets and detained in a federal courthouse jail were reportedly not charged with any crime and were later released. One protester was shot in the head with a non-lethal projectile which spilled his blood, fractured his skull, and required extensive surgery, simply because he was holding a loudspeaker or a sign.
Trump’s strategy here is very similar to an observation I recently posted on this blog asserting that Trump shares the white supremacist belief that the majority of white Americans would join their cause in the event of a race war. In this particular case, Trump likely believes that a white majority would side with him in a violent ideological confrontation pitting the political Right versus the political Left and therefore reassure his reelection. This mentality isn’t just delusional. It is certifiably insane.
Rest in peace, John Lewis.
Here’s the news:
PORTLAND, Ore. — Federal agents dressed in camouflage and tactical gear have taken to the streets of Portland, unleashing tear gas, bloodying protesters and pulling some people into unmarked vans in what Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon has called “a blatant abuse of power.”
The extraordinary use of federal force in recent days, billed as an attempt to tamp down persistent unrest and protect government property, has infuriated local leaders who say the agents have stoked tensions. “This is an attack on our democracy,” Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland said.
Late Friday night, Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, said her office had opened a criminal investigation into how one protester was injured near a federal courthouse. She also filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court accusing the federal agents of engaging in unlawful tactics and seeking a restraining order.
The agents in Portland are part of “rapid deployment teams” put together by the Department of Homeland Security after Mr. Trump directed federal agencies to deploy additional personnel to protect statues, monuments and federal property during the continuing unrest.
The teams, which include 2,000 officials from Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, are supporting the Federal Protective Service, an agency that already provides security at federal properties.
One recent video appeared to show a protester, Donavan La Bella, being struck in the head by an impact munition while he was holding a sign across the street from the federal courthouse, leading to a bloody scene. His mother has told local media that he suffered skull fractures and needed surgery.
Oregon elected officials blasted President Donald Trump‘s administration after reports that federal law enforcement personnel in recent days have arrested protesters off the streets of Portland while using unmarked government vehicles and refusing to tell people why they are being detained.
The tactics came as federal authorities already were being criticized for shooting a protester in the head with an impact munition on Saturday night outside of Portland’s federal courthouse.
Democratic Gov. Kate Brown said Trump is looking for a confrontation in the hopes of winning political points elsewhere. It also serves as a distraction from the coronavirus pandemic, which is causing spiking numbers of infections in Oregon and the nation.
Brown’s spokesman, Charles Boyle, said Friday that arresting people without probable cause is “extraordinarily concerning and a violation of their civil liberties and constitutional rights.”
The ACLU of Oregon said the federal agents appear to be violating citizens’ rights, which “should concern everyone in the United States.”
“Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street we call it kidnapping,” said Jann Carson, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. “The actions of the militarized federal officers are flat-out unconstitutional and will not go unanswered.”
Federal officers have charged at least 13 people with crimes related to the protests so far, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday. Some have been detained by the federal courthouse, which has been the scene of protests. But others were grabbed blocks away.
“Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said in a tweet.
In a letter Friday, Oregon’s two senators and two of its House members demanded that U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf immediately withdraw “these federal paramilitary forces from our state.”
The US Attorney for the Oregon District on Friday requested an investigation into masked, camouflaged federal authorities without identification badges who are arresting protesters in Portland.
The request is aimed specifically at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel who have been captured on various videos arresting protesters and putting them in unmarked SUVs.
Demonstrators in Portland have been protesting racial inequality and police brutality for the last 50 nights, US Attorney Billy J. Williams said in a statement.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Friday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over allegedly violent behavior from federal law enforcement agents at protests in Portland, Oregon.
The group says the lawsuit was filed on behalf of local journalists and legal observers. It seeks to prevent agents “from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists or legal observers” during protests against racial injustice sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd.
“This is a fight to save our democracy,” Kelly Simon, interim legal director with the ACLU of Oregon, said in a statement. “Under the direction of the Trump administration, federal agents are terrorizing the community, risking lives, and brutally attacking protesters demonstrating against police brutality.”
A coronavirus outbreak has spread through a federal law enforcement training facility in South Carolina prompting the national employees union to call for a halt to training.
At least 23 students and faculty have tested positive at Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, where Customs and Border Protection personnel were training, according to the National Treasury Employees Union.
(Reuters) – Amid the national conversation after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, U.S. police departments will need to take a fresh look at the screening of aspiring officers as an early method for preventing police racism and brutality, law enforcement officials and experts say.
To improve the screening process, one former FBI agent is developing a polygraph test specifically aimed at detecting prospective hires who have racist tendencies. Others stress the need to revamp the entire hiring process to weed out those who might use excessive force, especially against Black males.
“There are a lot of people who shouldn’t be in law enforcement,” said Brian Higgins, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former police chief in Bergen County, New Jersey. “We need to tighten this up again.”
At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, most Covid-19 cases seemed to be in older folks, who were getting very sick — an artifact of who was getting tested at the time.
But now, especially in states where Covid-19 cases have been rising in June and July, the median age has been dropping.
“We are seeing it in a much younger group, of 20- to 40-year-olds,” compared to the earlier stage of the pandemic, says Thomas Tsai, a health policy expert and surgeon at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
We’ve known that bars and other crowded indoor spaces are hubs of spread in the new hot spots. But there are likely many other factors at play.
Some of these factors include mixed public health messaging and premature reopenings, young people skipping precautions because they perceive a lower risk of getting very sick, people returning to jobs, and more testing of people without symptoms.