Don’t look now, but the Department of Homeland Security has apparently declared martial law in Portland, Oregon. For several days now, heavily armed federal troops without insignia or identification have been snatching American citizens off the streets and whisking them away in unmarked vans to prevent the dastardly crime of … graffiti. Literally.
For weeks, protesters demonstrating against police violence have scuffled with Oregon’s cops. They’ve also engaged in minor vandalism of federal property — mostly graffiti, a few smashed windows and damaged security cameras at the courthouse.
But with the president’s ratings in the tank and support for the Black Lives Matter movement rising, the Trump administration and Fox News have been blasting out dire warnings of dangerous cities where hapless Democratic mayors are held hostage by crowds of bloodthirsty anarchists.
“Far-left mayors are escalating the anti-cop crusade, and violent crime is spiraling in their cities. It’s all far-left cities where they have no understanding of what has to be done,” Trump said last week at a “Roundtable with Stakeholders Positively Impacted by Law Enforcement.”
Then he explicitly threatened to “take over” American cities using federal troops.
“Numbers are going to be coming down even if we have to go in and take over cities, because we can’t let that happen.”
And apparently he meant it, since Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf started gearing up to “take over” Portland shortly after. The pretext was “violent anarchists”, AKA racial justice protesters, with spray paint and laser pointers who “doxed” the heavily armed troops beating people exercising their First Amendment right to assemble.
“The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city,” Wolf said yesterday. “Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.”
Not sure how graffitiing Terry Schrunk Plaza counts as violent anarchy. But this right here seems to fit the bill pretty clearly.
Last Saturday, DHS put a protestor holding a BLM sign in critical care after firing a “less lethal round” at his head. Then on Wednesday at around 2 a.m., Wolf’s shock troops descended on the streets near the federal courthouse and started grabbing up protesters, including Mark Pettibone, who was thrown into the back of a van and blindfolded after agents pulled his beanie down over his face.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports:
Blinded by his hat, in an unmarked minivan full of armed people dressed in camouflage and body armor who hadn’t identified themselves, Pettibone said he was driven around downtown before being unloaded inside a building. He wouldn’t learn until after his release that he had been inside the federal courthouse.
“It was basically a process of facing many walls and corners as they patted me down and took my picture and rummaged through my belongings,” Pettibone said. “One of them said, ‘This is a whole lot of nothing.’”
Pettibone said he was put into a cell. Soon after, two officers came in to read him his Miranda rights. They didn’t tell him why he was being arrested. He said they asked him if he wanted to waive his rights and answer some questions, but Pettibone declined and said he wanted a lawyer. The interview was terminated, and about 90 minutes later he was released. He said he did not receive any paperwork, citation or record of his arrest.
“I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time,” Pettibone said. “And that apparently is grounds for detaining me.”
And if you saw that scenario on your CrimLaw exam, you’d probably call it an arrest. Nonetheless the U.S. Marshalls Services insists that, “All United States Marshals Service arrestees have public records of arrest documenting their charges. Our agency did not arrest or detain Mark James Pettibone.”
This is, not to put too fine a point on it, some Gestapo shit. Or as Oregon Governor Kate Brown described it, “political theater from President Trump (that) has nothing to do with public safety.”
This, coming from the same President who used tear gas to clear out peaceful protesters in Washington, DC to engineer a photo opportunity.
Trump is looking for a confrontation in Oregon in the hopes of winning political points in Ohio or Iowa.
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 16, 2020
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was similarly alarmed.
This is clearly a coordinated strategy from the White House.
It is irresponsible and it is escalating an already tense situation. Remove your heightened troop presence now. https://t.co/po6jOg43RT
— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) July 16, 2020
Remember back in the first days of the Trump administration when Steve Bannon was homebrewing blatantly illegal executive orders in the back room and lawyers descended on American airports to fight the travel ban? Looks like it might be time for us all to bone up on the finer points of habeus petitions.
Counselors, start your engines.
Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets (OPB)
Elizabeth Dye (@5DollarFeminist) lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.