Trump’s agents are sweeping peaceful citizens off the streets. This is not America.

Commentary

It is if Trump is re-elected!

Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post, began her Op-Ed today, headlined above, with this:

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech … or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Sounds familiar doesn’t it. Right, it’s the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. You know, that First Amendment that Trump and his crowd keep invoking when they support the displaying the Confederate Battle Flag or the not wearing of masks.

That’s it. Twenty-nine pretty simple, straight-forward words. Words not particularly subject to the intense scrutiny and interpretation as the bizarrely written Second Amendment. I mean what do the Second Amendment words really mean?

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Really? Perhaps the real James Madison was really as obtuse as the “James Madison” character portrayed in Hamilton.

But I digress.

Back to the issue at hand, here’s a report from Oregon Public Broadcasting,

“Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.”

The report continues: “The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and President Donald Trump have said they plan to ‘quell’ nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have lasted for more than six weeks.”

(NB: There is no evidence that President Trump has threatened to withdraw Federal support from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Not yet, at least.)

As Marcus writes, “Of course, authorities — and we’ll get to the matter of what authorities in a bit — have the power to prevent violence. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening in Portland, where nightly protests have been taking place since early June. Law enforcement agents aren’t targeting protesters who engaged in violence; they appear to be sweeping up random people who have exercised their rights under the First Amendment.”

Oregon’s governor,  Kate Brown, joined by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, have demanded the feds leave.

“This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement “Deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland” is “a blatant abuse of power by the federal government,” she said, adding that Chad Wolf, acting secretary of homeland security, who visited the city on Thursday, “is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes. He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way.”

Wolf, for his part, said 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. Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.”

And what have these lawless anarchists done? As Marcus writes,

“Wolf’s list of terrible depredations allegedly committed by the Portland protesters was less than convincing — and, in any event, in no way justified the kind of random, unprovoked arrests that have been described. The tally from July 15:

  • Violent anarchists doxed* members of federal law enforcement.
  • Violent anarchists attempted to damage the Hatfield Courthouse by throwing objects at it and spray painting it. Numerous fireworks were also lit.
  • Violent anarchists trespassed on federal property and destroyed a card reader at the Justice Center.”

(*dox – slang: to publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge

Let me be clear. I’m not an advocate of throwing objects at courthouses, the graffitiing of them or the trespassing on and/or destroying federal property. But, are these offenses the kind that require the imposition of Federal agents, unidentified, by the way? Agents who have not been requested by either state or local authorities.

Here’s one example of this Federal abuse of power, as reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting:

“Mark Pettibone, 29, was heading home in the early hours of Wednesday morning when several men in green military fatigues and generic ‘police’ patches sprang out of an unmarked gray minivan.” Pettibone was detained, searched, driven to the federal courthouse, placed in a holding cell and read his Miranda rights against self-incrimination. He declined to waive them. And then, about 90 minutes later, he was released.

“’I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time,’ Pettibone told Oregon Public Broadcasting. ‘And that apparently is grounds for detaining me.’”

Pettibone did nothing wrong. He was detained by, as Senator Jeff Merkley said, “Federal storm troopers, Trump’s personal paramilitary force” who are “sweeping people off the street with no probable cause.” Those “storm troopers” would not provide Merkely, a United States senator representing the state of Oregon, any rules or justifications for their actions.

If there is any solace in this sordid affair, it is this: The “storm troopers,” as characterized by Senator Merkley, were wearing green military fatigues and had generic ‘police’ patches. Thank goodness they weren’t sporting fedoras and long, black, leather trench coats. Because if they were, we’d all have to start re-learning an old word.

Can you say, “Gestapo?”

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy.

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