APB: Trump’s Occupy Portland Gambit

Federal troops in camouflage, without identification, heavily armed, uncommunicative, roving in unmarked cars, seizing and incarcerating peaceful protesters without charging them. Acting without invitation. No reporting of this deployment to any state authority. No official justification of the Constitutional or other basis for dispatching these troops.

What is this: Chile under Pinochet? A reenactment of Costa Gavras’ “Z”? Turkey under Erdogan, or Syria under Assad? No, it’s Portland, Oregon right now.
The protests against this federal deployment by Oregon’s state and local leaders are fulsome, but will the governor act to remove these play soldiers and let Donald Trump know that his test run at military occupation cannot stand?
Here’s what some prominent senators are tweeting:

“Trump and Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media.” Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.

“I thought we’d already covered this after the attacks in Lafayette Square: the US government should not be using unidentified federal officers as a secret police force to terrorize US citizens & violate their constitutional rights. This is outrageous.” Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts

“Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters. These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable in America, and must end. . . . these agents are snatching people off the street with no underlying justification. Both of these acts are profound offenses against Americans. We demand not only that these acts end, but also that they remove their forces immediately from our state.” Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon

(SEE the joint letter to AG Barr and DHS Secretary Wolf from Sens. Merkley and Wyden, and two Oregon Representatives, see https://blumenauer.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/blumenauer-merkley-wyden-and-bonamici-demand-federal-forces-be-removed)

Senator Merkley speaks for all of us when he tweets Trump: “Get your DHS lackey and uninvited paramilitary actions out of my state. Our communities are not a stage for your twisted reelection campaign.” Governor Kate Brown should authorize the state police and national guard units to physically remove Trump’s henchmen or create a protective cordon around the protesters.

Several commentators have pointed out that Trump has failed to provide a look into his priorities if he is reelected. Oh, really? Look again.

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  1. Mel,

    Like a bullet to the head.

    By my lights, your most effective post.

    Certainly, for me, the most shocking . . . perhaps it would be less so if I lacked the personal link.


  2. I think if Trump ordered the Army to occupy downtown Portland he would need to invoke the Insurrection Act and would immediately face a challenge in Federal Court. If, however, he and his henchmen are using officers of the Department of Homeland Security, that might be a bit trickier. I’m not sure and wonder if any lawyers reading this post would weigh-in. In any case, we are getting closer and closer to full-bore presidential authoritarianism and that scares the hell out of me. I’m glad Sens. Wyden and Merkley have called Trump and Wolf out in such strong, unambiguous terms. That’s a great start. Now, maybe they could tell us if they have any plans to back up their words with official action.

    1. Everything I’ve read tells us that DHS is the source of the troops. I believe court procedures are already underway. You’re absolutely right to want these representatives to back up words with deeds. Calling (as one of them is) on an inspector general to look into the matter is a recipe for inaction. Yes, let’s hear from the lawyers!

  3. Agree, 

    I heard a local conservative commentator compare Trump to Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock in I think 1954,  I can hear the right wing argument now:  To restore Law and order.  Media and politicians have not distinguished between legitimate protest and vandalism and destruction.  Small businesses all over the city are going to have a very hard time regrouping with so much vandalism to their business..  Also, neighborhood corridors such as Hawthorne and Division are being tagged in abundance,  Beautiful murals and public art are being defaced. Its going to take. A  DECADE for small business to recover from the twin plagues if coovid and vandalism.  I am not sure if Portlands first floor commecial zoning can survive the twin plagues.  First floor commercial and short blocks is what makes Portland feel so different and alive compared with other cities (old planner Bob here).

    Hoping it will all go away.


    From: In the Human Interest – Mel Gurtov Reply-To: In the Human Interest – Mel Gurtov Date: Friday, July 17, 2020 at 2:18 PM To: Subject: [New post] APB: Trump’s Occupy Portland Gambit

    Mel Gurtov posted: “Federal troops in camouflage, without identification, heavily armed, uncommunicative, roving in unmarked cars, seizing and incarcerating peaceful protesters without charging them. Acting without invitation. No reporting of this deployment to any state a”

  4. The occupation by unmarked federal agents is OUTRAGEOUS! I am a Eugene based Oregonian (for those of y’all who don’t know where Eugene is, it’s 110 miles to the south); and plan on joining a protest this Saturday or Sunday; whatever.

  5. Unt next ve vill haff dese Liberals vare armbands vit an “L” on zem….Sorry Mr. Trump, my family has been there. I’ll see you in your grave before I or mine will march into showers willingly.. And NO I don’t care what government agency monitors this email… My mother taught me to turn the other cheek… I didn’t learn that lesson well….

  6. Obviously outrageous. And still ongoing and grossly under-reported?

    What do the courts have to say about Occupy Portland? (A great title and great post)

    And what uppity cities are next? Merkley’s suggestion (or is it yours?) of physical removal

    by the Oregon National Guard is most interesting. A preview of the physical removal of

    Trump from the White House on 1/21/21 after he loses bigly?


    1. Thanks, Mike. Sens. Merkley and Wyden, and two Oregon Reps, have written a very strong letter to Barr and Wolf calling for removal of the federal forces (https://blumenauer.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/blumenauer-merkley-wyden-and-bonamici-demand-federal-forces-be-removed). ACLU Oregon is among the legal outfits that are bringing the case before the courts. The notion of using state police and the National Guard to oust these forces is mine; neither Oregon’s Congress members nor the governor have (yet) mentioned that option. They damned well should!

  7. …and Hong King 'under' Xi, and the Crimea and the Donbass 'under' Putin, and….. There is little doubt that if the 'Oregon National Guard' attempted the "physical removal" of the 'special forces', they could find themselves 'out-gunned'. DH 

    <!– <!– <!–

    1. Fair point. But it might be possible to isolate the federal troops from other police. Alternatively, as my reply to Barb a moment ago suggested, Oregon’s guard could create a cordon around the protesters to protect them FROM the troops.

  8. Thank you Mel. Oregon is all over the national news for this outrageous situation. Although a lawsuit is pending, we all know how long it takes to reach an outcome when Barr’s justice department defends these cases. I try to stay hopeful, but Trumpism and lawlessness have prevailed for nearly 4 years now, and I’m weary wondering if/when it will end.

    1. Thanks, Barb. Those lawsuits are necessary–and insufficient. The city and state can and should act to PROTECT the protesters from Trump’s troops. Put a cordon around the protesters. This lawlessness must not prevail.

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