Reports confirm that law abiding American citizens are being plucked off the streets of Portland, Oregon, by otherwise unidentified groups of men wearing camouflage clothing, carrying weapons, and cruising in unmarked combat vehicles.

The same reports identify these vigilantes as troops from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and security services under the control of the Department of Homeland Security.  The acting deputy secretary of DHS, Ken Cuccinelli, stated what many immediately believed, that this was a trial run at a national undertaking:

With as much lawbreaking is going on, we’re seeking to prosecute as many people as are breaking the law as it relates to federal jurisdiction. That’s not always happening with respect to local jurisdiction and local offenses. But, you know, this is a posture we intend to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.”

We cannot say we have not been warned.

No national legal authority was cited for this unprecedented exercise of police power on an American city’s streets, presumably soon to appear in cities all across the nation.  What the “federal jurisdiction” is that he has cited is unknown.

Why this vigilante force does not carry identification is not explained.  For all the people of Portland know this operation could be carried out by private right-wing organizations in the service of the Trump campaign organization or the White House itself.

For those still repressing the thought that Trump is capable of anything from now until after the election, including its suspension, wake up.

American democracy is at serious risk.

The distinction between traditional police, under the authority of local and State jurisdictions, and the military has been eroding for years.  After Vietnam and particularly after draw down of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military found itself with more combat equipment than it could use.  Armored combat vehicles and combat weapons themselves made their way into police forces all across the nation.  In effect, local police began to look like, and too often act like, traditional military forces.

Dangers that explode unto the surface have often been marinating under the surface for considerable time.

Consider this: weapons in private citizens’ hands are estimated to be in the range of three hundred million.  That’s almost one per person because some gun owners have extensive arsenals.  Many of those arsenal owners have armed up in anticipation of a government takeover.  If this suggests the possibility of civil war, it should.

Some of the most thoughtful, experienced, and sober people I know now admit to being more concerned, even frightened, than at anytime in their lives.  That is because things are happening almost daily that none of us thought could ever happen in America…until they did.

If a political leader can silence an entire political party, what can he not do?  He has two or three broadcast networks working for him.  Much of the billionaire class is indebted for their tax cuts.  He is using the U.S. Postal Service to prevent mail in ballots and putting 50,000 “voting monitors” at polling places to intimidate voters.  And now he is deploying his private governmental army on America’s streets.

What more do you need?  A knock on the door late at night?   Unidentified men in unmarked vehicles plucking you off the streets of your city and depositing you in secret prisons?

This fall if you hear the rumbling of vehicles on your street, it is probably for your neighbor.  But it may be for you.

25 Responses to “Democracy Is Dying, Starting in Portland”

  1. Setphen D. Pillow Says:

    “For those still repressing the thought that Trump is capable of anything from now until after the election, including its suspension, wake up.”

    “American democracy is at serious risk.”

    Okay, now that we are all awake and conscious, the reality is that we are now living in a quasi racist, fascist dictatorship. There is no one, who seems to have either the desire or the ability to stop this from becoming a full blown “banana republic” dictatorship take over. What are we to do? Call our Congressperson and wail about the unconstitutional nature of what is happening? Two things to that point: 1.Congress has been doing nothing about the abomination infesting the white house for 3 years now but whine and wring their hands; 2. The Constitution has ceased to matter, since the current repubican regime and their repubican co-conspirators in Congress have deemed the document irrelevant and nonbinding upon the current regime and its actions.

    Until the current occupant of the white house is removed from the seat of government (and maybe even the face of the earth), our democracy ceased to exist when the boots hit the ground in Portland. What you saw there is coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

    Speaking of all of those guns, how many do you have access to? You’re gonna need them before this is all over. RISE UP! RESIST!

    Stephen D. Pillow.

  2. Richard R. Says:

    I’m not a lawyer and have no legal training beyond some college courses as a part of my business education and the fact that my father and many friends are lawyers. What I’d like to know is under what authority do these “Federal troops” operate in an American city where the Governor of the State and the Mayor have not requested them? As the Governor of a state is nominally the authority over the National Guard of any given state does not the Governor of Oregon have the right to activate the National Guard of that state to take back control of the streets with the objective of removing non-authorized forces from the streets? Doesn’t the Federal Authority over the National Guard of the State of Oregon or any other state require some kind of official statement of authorization in order to activate them? Can the Governor activate the Oregon National Guard to prevent unauthorized (by the Governor or Mayor of a city or state) quasi-military forces from operating within the city or state’s jurisdiction?

  3. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    “It’s always darkest before it’s completely black.”

  4. Michael Says:

    The chilling thing about the Senator Hart’s essay is that not one syllable of it is hyperbolic. This is the situation we find ourselves in. My questions is, where are Biden and the Democrats? Pelosi managed to put out a single Tweet condemning ‘unidentified stormtroopers, unmarked cars and kidnapping protesters’; as far as I know the presumptive Democratic nominee has not addressed it at all, and Schumer, the invisible man, seems to be hiding under a rock somewhere. The former Republicans at the Lincoln Project put together a very powerful ad warning of the lurch toward authoritarianism, but the Democrats are all but silent. This is unacceptable but all too predictable. American democracy is hanging by a thread, yet the opposition is too timid to speak out. That doesn’t bode well for the way things will be even if the Democrats sweep the election. They never, ever learn. It’s why the Democrats lose even when they win and the Republican win even when they lose. No matter how dire the situation, it never changes.

  5. Gary Hart Says:

    In response to Richard, President Trump issued an Executive Order ostensibly designed to protect national property and monuments. On the basis of allegations that a federal court house or other structure received some minor damage from demonstrators, law enforcement forces assigned to the US Department of Homeland Security were deployed pursuant to this EO. Why they operated without insignia on their persons or vehicles has never been explained by the Trump administration. A similar deployment is now on its way to Chicago and may soon be operating in a number of American cities as trial runs before the election. Recent research indicates the president may have as many as a hundred or more secret presidential powers that can be brought to bear simply by the president himself declaring a national emergency. GH

  6. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Senator Hart,

    Among those “secret presidential powers” there wouldn’t happen to be such things as a Declaration of Martial Law, Suspension of the Right of Habeas Corpus, Suppression of Aspects of the First Amendment, i.e. Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Free Speech, and Freedom of the Right for Citizens to Peacefully Assemble and Seek Redress of Grievances. All of the above were used by Abraham Lincoln a various times during the Civil War. After the implementation of the above acts, could very easily follow the suspension of all elections until the National Emergency has been lifted, by no other than der Feuerteufel himself. If he goes this far, looking at the history of self imposed dictators in the not to distant past, he might as will suspend all federal and state court systems to be replaced by military tribunals (another item that Lincoln did), all legislatures, federal and state, and then declare himself dictator for life.

  7. Michael Says:

    The Nazis used the Reichstag fire to pass the ‘enabling act’. Trump is using damage to federal monuments and buildings to unleash a secret police on American cities (all Democratic, by the way). This is how it starts. And the Republican Party tolerates no dissent within its ranks. They are the enablers.

    https://www.axios.com/matt-gaetz-liz-cheney-house-republicans-caaf5ece-96f6-4744-9a2a-e7411d476a8b.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=organic&utm_content=1100

  8. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    I wouldn’t say that Democracy in America is dying. Besides, Americans have enough to worry about that without worrying about the survival of the Republic on top of it all.

    And, isn’t Trump simply setting himself up as the law and order candidate and forcing Democrats into the position of decrying the use of Homeland Security to help them solve problems of violence in the streets and unruly protesters? And, aren’t Democrats already falling into his trap?

  9. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Elizabeth,

    So your suggestion is not to sorry “about the survival of the Republic” while we have “enough to worry about” otherwise? What is more important than the survival of the Republic? That is what der Feuerteufel wants to do. Distract us with everything else, while he destroys the Republic and establishes his racist, fascist, autocratic dictatorship.

    Please identify the violence in the streets, which so far as I have seen is either white males (marginally aligned with white supremacist factions) breaking glass fronts on buildings and law enforcement personnel firing “non-lethal” weapons, flash bangs, and tear gas at peaceful protestors, and unruly protestors of which I have seen very few in comparison to the unruly law enforcement personnel.

  10. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Stephen,

    As usual, I was about as clear as mud with my comment Re. the Republic and violence in the streets.

    Consequently, what you understood my comment to say is not all what I meant.

    You and I, both, along with our gracious host, understand what is happening in the streets of Portland and that more cities will be targeted by Trump’s unidentified thugs.

    My point is that Trump is wanting to provoke the kind of response from Democrats that he can point to and say that Democrats don’t care about the safety of Americans. You know as well as I do or better how many voters for whom this sort of vacuous message
    resonates all too well.

    Democrats must have an enlightened response to this and not just fall into the trap that Trump has set for them.

  11. Bill Pruden Says:

    Senator, 
    Thanks as always for your enlightening and insightful offerings in this blog. However, as much as I enjoy them, learn from them, and look forward to each new post, I must admit that I was very excited and pleased to see your Op-Ed in today’s New York Times concerning the need to investigate the President’s  emergency authority for your wisdom needs to be shared beyond this blog.  Indeed, given our country’s woeful lack of historical knowledge and understanding (and I say that as a frustrated and somewhat dispirited history teacher) and the price we are paying for it, I believe it is more important than ever that those of you who have the distinctive perspective you do continue to remind the rest of us of where we have been as well as the perils of continuing to follow the current path.  It is to your credit and all of our benefit that you have continued to be a part of the national discourse.  We just need more to listen.   Thank you. 

  12. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Did we have advance notice of this op-ed??

  13. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Elizabeth,

    I apologize that I jumped to an incorrect conclusion regarding you statement. I have a tendency to do so due to my very pessimistic outlook on all things political in particular. I might not be right, but then that would be a pleasant surprise as opposed to a optimistic outlook. I hate being any more despondent than is my natural state.

    I agree as to what is happening in the streets, which is a major goad of the protestors and the Democrats. I also agree with you that the Democrats must take a measured response to these provocations from der Feuerteufel and not let him even have a chance to use any of these happenings against them.

    Thank you for you enlightened and interesting responses. You keep me on my feet.

    Stephen

  14. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Stephen,

    Oh, no need for apologies. It’s so easy for things to get lost in translation over the internet(s) and I am as guilty of jumping to quick conclusions as anybody.

    And, fair warning, while I have pretty much behaved myself when I’m here, I do tend towards the provocative and sometimes I don’t even know what the heck I’m talking about but I’ve found that can lead to the kind of enlightened and interesting back and forth we both like to be a part of.

    Take good care!

  15. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Elizabeth,

    My older daughter once told me that I would take a position which I did not believe, in an discussion just to start an argument. I told her no, I was just trying to see how well founded the other persons position on the subject really was. My dad said that I’d argue with a fence post. My response to him was, “You taught me.” To which he had no reply.

    I enjoy our discussion back and forth very much. I rarely find such outside of this site, especially regarding things of a political nature on a higher level than just name calling. Thank you for your participation.

    Keep safe!

  16. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

    George Foley, a black man, is murdered on a Minnesota street in broad daylight complete with video. As a knee was pressed against his neck by a police officer for eight minutes and forty-six seconds as he cried out “I Can’t Breathe” and for his dead mother before he died. A young black healthcare worker is shot to death while sleeping in her bed and her boyfriend arrested for trying to protect her from what he thought was a home invasion. Instead it was a Louisville, Kentucky police unit with faulty information and a no-knock warrant for a drug violator who had been arrested earlier in the day. No arrests have been made in this case.

    Ahmaud Arbery was jogging in his neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia when he was chased down by three white men and shot to death. One of the three men video recorded the pursuit and killing. It took several months before these men were arrested and only after the video became public. If this isn’t enough there are 18 or more other incidents that mirror these tragedies where the cop perpetrators were acquitted of all charges!

    Protests erupted in all 50 States and thousands of diverse protesters marched despite tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets to call for equality under the law. Black Lives Do Matter.

    No other jurisdiction in this country has a gathering of city, state, and federal law enforcement as well as a mix of identified and unidentified military force presence as Washington DC the central component of governance in this country. This confluence of enforcement power in our nation’s capital should be of concern to every American.

    Now Portland, Kansas City, Chicago, Seattle, and Albuquerque will experience the Trump Traveling Horror Show!

    Portland, Oregon which is 90% white supports BLM and for the most part has been peacefully demonstrating for police reform. The center point of the violence is a two block area downtown near the Federal Building and the perpetrators are federal agents. The remainder of the city is relatively quiet.Trump’s troops are there to create conflict not quell it.

    Billy Barr claims 200 criminal arrests by Trump’s Operation Legend in Kansas City. Actual figures show the total of one arrest. The remaining arrests were made prior to Trump’s intervention.

    God knows what will happen in the other cities!

    I CAN’T BREATHE!

    Trump’s interventions ignore the underlying causes of civil unrest in all these cities and opts for the ‘beat em, gas em, and lock em up’ solution!

    Underlying causes we knew about prior to the pandemic:
    Over 27 million people in this country had no health insurance!

    Half of the working population live from paycheck to paycheck in this country!

    Some 40 million people in America live in poverty! Over 14 million are children!
    Over 500,000 homeless people sleep on the streets of America! 33% are families with children!

    Around 4000 immigrant children still in government custody! Undocumented immigrants in this country for years who have worked steadily, paid taxes, contributed to the economy and their community in a positive way, have no criminal record are subject to sometimes violent ICE raids, separated from loved ones and deported to a country they do not know instead of given a deserved pathway to citizenship’
    American soldiers who are undocumented immigrants are still being deported after honorably completing their military service! They deserve automatic citizenship for their loyal service.

    Income inequality continues to grow at an alarming rate with little effort being made to provide for a living wage!

    Since the pandemic, the situation has gotten much worse:
    43 million people have filed for unemployment insurance and some 14% of the workforce are estimated to be unemployed which is higher than any time since the Great Depression. Persons of color have a higher rate than the average! These are estimates and not actual numbers which could be higher.

    Large numbers of people are falling behind in mortgage and rent payments not to mention credit card debt. With the failure of Congress to extend unemployment benefits and mortgage and rent forbearance the homeless rate will increase at least by 45% as will the level of poverty!

    Many small business owners are on the verge of bankruptcy with little help in sight!
    State and local governments are facing financial crisis and curtailment of essential services due to lack of revenue.

    Meanwhile Big corporations, Big Pharmaceuticals and most financial institutions thrive.

    I CAN’T BREATHE

    Where is the federal government? Grid Locked AND IN RECESS!

    The House passes legislation to help address some of problems faced by the people, but the Senate kills it without discussion, debate, or a vote and instead sits on their butts deliberating on judicial candidates not even qualified to be a dog catcher! Senate Republicans can’t decide on a plan among them!

    Now shall we talk about why a large diversity of people in this country in the streets attempting to protest peacefully in spite of the fact they are being tear gassed, hit with rubber bullets, pepper bullets, and beaten with batons.

    We have a mentally challenged incompetent President with strong racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic tendencies and no discernable moral principles who in reality can’t even string a complete sentence together! He is a Johnny-One-Note who only knows the three P’s, Preen, Pose, and Pout and to spew divisiveness! Oh! Yes! He can identify an elephant!

    I CAN’T BREATHE!

    This is the real state of this union!

    Senator Hart is spot on in recommending Congressional Select Committee to investigate these alleged ‘Special Powers’ resident with said President. There must be a full evaluation of their legality and conformance to Constitutional Law. Most certainly legislation regarding Congressional and Judicial oversight of these ‘special powers’ must be enacted.

    In the interim Cities, States, and individuals will need to seek judicial relief from unjust arrests and attacks from these mysterious federal agents.
    The Democratic Party must lawyer up for the coming election cycle and be ready to challenge the legality of the President and his Party’s actions over the next 100 days.

    The Biden camp must get aggressive in countering misinformation generated by Trump and his enablers as well as potential foreign influencers! He must present a positive focus on steps proposed to begin to heal the soul of this nation!

  17. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Thank you Patrick for an excellent summation of the current horrendous situation this nation finds itself in. I would hope that you publish this in some other medium that can gain national attention. It is one of the best that I have read.

  18. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    Thanks Stephen! Much appreciated! I will try!

  19. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Patrick,

    That was hard to read but must be read and heard, far and wide. I have been guilty of trivializing the real state of the union next to the veritable cry for help and call to “arms” you posted here this morning. I won’t make that mistake again.

    I echo Stephen in hoping you have this published wherever you can. I also hope Senator Hart can pass it along to Democratic HQ and the Biden campaign.

  20. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    Thank you Elizabeth!

  21. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    I am resubmitting my previous post entitled WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? After rereading it I understand Elizabeth’s difficulty in reading it!

    WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

    George Foley, a black man, is murdered on a Minnesota street in broad daylight complete with video. As a knee was pressed against his neck by a police officer for eight minutes and forty-six seconds he cried out “I Can’t Breathe” and called for his dead mother before he died. A young black healthcare worker is shot to death while sleeping in her bed and her boyfriend later arrested for trying to protect her from what he thought was a home invasion fired shots at the intruders. Instead it was a Louisville, Kentucky police unit with a no-knock warrant for a drug violator who had been arrested earlier in the day. No arrests have been made in this case.

    Ahmaud Arbery was jogging in his neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia when he was chased down by three white men and shot to death. One of the three men video recorded the pursuit and killing. It took several months before these men were arrested and only after the video became public. If this isn’t enough there are 18 plus previous incidents that mirror these tragedies where the cop perpetrators were acquitted of all charges!

    Protests have erupted in all 50 States and thousands of diverse protesters marched despite tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets to call for equality under the law. Black Lives Do Matter.

    No other jurisdiction in this country has a gathering of city, state, and federal law enforcement as well as a mix of identified and unidentified military force presence as Washington DC the central component of our governance. This confluence of enforcement power in our nation’s capital should be of concern to every American. This confluence of enforcement power overwhelmed used tear gas, pepper spray, batons. flash bangs, rubber bullets and brute force to attack peaceful demonstrators near the White House in order for the President to walk across the street to hold a bible upside down!

    It was a blatant unconstitutional use of force to deny the protesters their 1st Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.

    Now Portland, Kansas City, Chicago, Seattle, and Albuquerque are or will experience the Trump Traveling Horror Show!

    Portland, Oregon which is 90% white supports BLM and for the most part has been peacefully demonstrating for police reform. The center point of the protest is a two block area downtown near the Federal Building and the perpetrators of violence are federal agents. The remainder of the city is relatively quiet. Trumps troops are there to create conflict not to quell it.

    Billy Barr claims 200 criminal arrests have been made by Trump’s Operation Legend in Kansas City. Actual figures show the total of one arrest. The remaining arrests were made prior to Trump’s intervention.

    God knows what will happen in the other cities!

    I CAN’T BREATHE!

    Trump’s interventions ignore the underlying causes of civil unrest in all these cities and opts for the ‘beat em, gas em, and lock em up’ solution!

    Underlying causes we knew about prior to the pandemic:

    Over 27 million people in this country had no health insurance!

    Half of the working population live from paycheck to paycheck in this country!
    Some 40 million people in America live in poverty! Over 14 million are children!
    Over 500,000 homeless people sleep on the streets of America! 33% are families with children!

    Around 4000 immigrant children still in government custody! Undocumented immigrants in this country who have worked steadily, paid taxes, contributed to the economy and their community in a positive way for years, and have no criminal record are subject to sometimes violent ICE raids, separated from loved ones and deported to a country they do not know. They deserve a pathway to citizenship!

    American soldiers who are undocumented immigrants are still being deported after honorably completing their military service! They deserve automatic citizenship for their loyal service.

    Income inequality continues to grow at an alarming rate with little effort being made to provide for a living wage! Senator McConnell has relegated the House passed bill to increase the minimum wage of $15 an hour to his graveyard!

    Since the pandemic, the situation has gotten much worse:

    43 million people have filed for unemployment insurance and some 14% of the workforce are estimated to be unemployed which is higher rate than any time since the Great Depression. Persons of color have a higher rate than the average rate! These are estimates and not actual numbers which could be higher.

    Large numbers of people are falling behind in mortgage and rent payments not to mention credit card debt. With the failure of Congress to extend unemployment benefits and mortgage and rent forbearance the homeless rate will increase at least by 45% as will the level of poverty!

    Many small business owners are on the verge of bankruptcy with little help in sight!
    State and local governments are facing financial crisis and curtailment of essential services due to lack of revenue.

    Meanwhile Big corporations, Big Pharmaceuticals and most financial institutions thrive.

    I CAN’T BREATHE

    Where is the federal government? Grid Locked AND IN RECESS!
    The House passes legislation to help address some of problems faced by the people, but the Senator McConnell kills it without discussion, debate, or a vote and instead the Republican Senate sits on their butts deliberating on judicial candidates who are not even qualified to be a dog catcher! Senate Republicans can’t decide on a legislative plan for relief among them!

    Now shall we talk about why a large diversity of people in this country are in the streets attempting to protest peacefully in spite of the fact they are being tear gassed, hit with rubber bullets, pepper bullets, and beaten with batons.

    To complicate matters we have a mentally challenged incompetent President with strong racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic tendencies and no discernable moral principles who in reality can’t even string a complete sentence together! He is a Johnny-One-Note who only knows the three P’s, Preen, Pose, and Pout and to spawn acts of divisiveness! Oh! Yes! He can identify an elephant and remember five words!

    I CAN’T BREATHE!

    This is the real state of this union!

    Senator Hart is spot on in recommending a Congressional Select Committee to investigate these alleged ‘Special Powers’ resident with said President. There must be a full evaluation of their legality and conformance to Constitutional Law. Most certainly legislation regarding Congressional and Judicial oversight of these ‘special powers’ must be enacted.

    In the interim Cities, States, and individuals will need to seek judicial relief from unjust arrests and attacks from these mysterious federal agents.

    The Democratic Party must lawyer up for the coming election cycle and be ready to challenge the legality of the President and his Party’s actions over the next 100 days.

    The Biden camp must get aggressive in countering misinformation generated by Trump and his enablers as well as potential foreign influencers! He must present a positive focus on steps proposed to begin to heal the soul of this nation!

  22. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Patrick, that was all very worth repeating but the difficulty in reading comes from the fact that I am among the long-time fans of America or, at least, of the promise of America and it is hard for us to see where she is going … 🙁

  23. Brian C McCarthy Says:

    Senator,

    I know you’ve got a more recent blog posted, but today’s Trump tweet, containing the long-expected suggestion of postponing the election, returned me to your words from this one:

    “For those still repressing the thought that Trump is capable of anything from now until after the election, including its suspension, wake up.“

    The good news is that Sen McConnell and other Republicans swiftly shot the idea down. It remains to be seen if he drops the issue or attempts to circumvent his own party’s congressional leadership.

    Cheers,
    BCM

  24. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    With Trump, anything is possible.

  25. JD Kinnick Says:

    Portland is out of control – failed leadership at the local and state level has turned a blind eye to the goons running wild. Need the national guard to crackdown on the scofflaws.

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