[WSMDiscuss] Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun (Michelle Goldberg)

Jai Sen jai.sen at cacim.net
Tue Jul 21 22:30:32 CEST 2020

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Viruses in movement…, The US in movement…, Racism in movement…, Resistance in movement…, Freedoms in movement…,  Power in movement…

[Further update : Here, further to my posts on July 18 (‘50 Nights of Anti-Racist Protests and Police Violence in Portland (Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance) / Federal Agents Unleash Militarized Crackdown on Portland (New York Times)’, and then ‘To End 'Unconstitutional Nightmare', ACLU Sues Trump Administration Over Use of Secret Police in Portland (Common Dreams)) is an opinion piece in the New York Times yesterday…

[This – the  photograph below - is US America today; the Green light is on for crossing the road is on, and this is Empire, now turning humanoids on its own people :

Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun

Protesters are being snatched from the streets without warrants. Can we call it fascism yet ?

Michelle Goldberg <https://www.nytimes.com/by/michelle-goldberg>
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/20/opinion/portland-protests-trump.html?referringSource=articleShare <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/20/opinion/portland-protests-trump.html?referringSource=articleShare>

Federal agents confronting Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Ore., on Monday. (Credit...Noah Berger/Associated Press)

The month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Yale historian Timothy Snyder published the best-selling book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.” It was part of a small flood of titles meant to help Americans find their bearings as the new president laid siege to liberal democracy.

One of Snyder’s lessons was, “Be wary of paramilitaries.” He wrote, “When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.” In 2017, the idea of unidentified agents in camouflage snatching leftists off the streets without warrants might have seemed like a febrile Resistance fantasy. Now it’s happening.

According to a lawsuit <http://opb-imgserve-production.s3-website-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/original/ag_rosenblum_xxxx_updated_complaint_1595086491349.pdf> filed by Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, on Friday, federal agents “have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles” since at least last Tuesday. The protesters are neither arrested nor told why they’re being held.

There’s no way to know the affiliation of all the agents — they’ve been wearing military fatigues with patches that just say “Police” — but The Times reported that some of them are part of a specialized Border Patrol group <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/18/us/portland-protests.html> “that normally is tasked with investigating drug smuggling organizations.”

The Trump administration has announced that it intends to send a similar force to other cities <https://www.motherjones.com/anti-racism-police-protest/2020/07/trump-border-patrol-cities-portland-chicago/>; on Monday, The Chicago Tribune reported <https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/criminal-justice/ct-chicago-police-dhs-deployment-20200720-dftu5ychwbcxtg4ltarh5qnwma-story.html> on plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to Chicago. “I don’t need invitations by the state,” Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said on Fox News <https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1285224329878306817?s=20> Monday, adding, “We’re going to do that whether they like us there or not.”

Portland Protests
Photos of clashes with federal forces <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/us/portland-photos-protests.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article>
In Portland, we see what such an occupation looks like. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported on 29-year-old Mark Pettibone <https://www.opb.org/news/article/federal-law-enforcement-unmarked-vehicles-portland-protesters/>, who early last Wednesday was grabbed off the street by unidentified men, hustled into an unmarked minivan and taken to a holding cell in the federal courthouse. He was eventually released without learning who had abducted him.

A federal agent shot 26-year-old Donavan La Bella in the head with an impact munition; he was hospitalized and needed reconstructive surgery. In a widely circulated video, a 53-year-old Navy veteran was pepper sprayed and beaten <https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/20/christopher-david-portland-protest-video/> after approaching federal agents to ask them about their oaths to the Constitution, leaving him with two broken bones.

There’s something particularly terrifying in the use of Border Patrol agents against American dissidents. After the attack on protesters <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/us/politics/trump-walk-lafayette-square.html> near the White House last month, the military pushed back on Trump’s attempts to turn it against the citizenry. Police officers in many cities are willing to brutalize demonstrators, but they’re under local control. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, however, is under federal authority, has leadership that’s fanatically devoted <https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-border-patrol-was-primed-for-president-trump> to Trump and is saturated with far-right politics.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Donald Trump picked C.B.P. to be the ones to go over to Portland and do this,” Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, told me. “It has been a very problematic agency in terms of respecting human rights and in terms of respecting the law.”

It is true that C.B.P. is not an extragovernmental militia, and so might not fit precisely into Snyder’s “On Tyranny” schema. But when I spoke to Snyder on Monday, he suggested the distinction isn’t that significant. “The state is allowed to use force, but the state is allowed to use force according to rules,” he said. These agents, operating outside their normal roles, are by all appearances behaving lawlessly.

Snyder pointed out that the history of autocracy offers several examples of border agents being used against regime enemies.

“This is a classic way that violence happens in authoritarian regimes, whether it’s Franco’s Spain or whether it’s the Russian Empire,” said Snyder. “The people who are getting used to committing violence on the border are then brought in to commit violence against people in the interior.”




When fascism starts to feel normal, we’re all in trouble : “If you’re not scared about fascism in the US, you should be.”

Castro worries that since the agents are unidentified, far-right groups could easily masquerade as them <https://twitter.com/JoaquinCastrotx/status/1284956181400899585?s=20> to go after their enemies on the left. “It becomes more likely the more that this tactic is used,” he said. “I think it’s unconstitutional and dangerous and heading towards fascism.”

On Friday, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, tweeted about what’s happening in Portland <https://twitter.com/SpeakerPelosi/status/1284294427654197248?s=20>: “Trump and his storm troopers must be stopped.” She didn’t mention what Congress plans to do to stop them, but the House will soon vote on a homeland security appropriations bill. People outraged about the administration’s police-state tactics should demand, at a minimum, that Congress hold up the department’s funding until those tactics are halted.

Through the Trump years, there’s been a debate about whether the president’s authoritarianism is tempered by his incompetence. Those who think concern about fascism is overblown can cite several instances when the administration has been beaten back after overreaching. But all too often the White House has persevered, deforming American life until what once seemed like worst-case scenarios become the status quo.

Trump has already established that his allies, like Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, are above the law. What happens now will tell us how many of us are below it.


Jai Sen

Independent researcher, editor; Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at the University of Ottawa

jai.sen at cacim.net <mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>
Now based in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325) and in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded and unsurrendered Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900) 

CURRENT / RECENT publications :

Jai Sen, ed, 2018a – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance. Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
Jai Sen, ed, 2018b – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ? (Indian edition). New Delhi : AuthorsUpfront, in collaboration with OpenWord and PM Press.  Hard copy available at MOM1AmazonIN <https://www.amazon.in/dp/9387280101/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1522884070&sr=8-2&keywords=movements+of+movements+jai+sen>, MOM1Flipkart <https://www.flipkart.com/the-movements-of-movements/p/itmf3zg7h79ecpgj?pid=9789387280106&lid=LSTBOK9789387280106NBA1CH&marketplace=FLIPKART&srno=s_1_1&otracker=search&fm=SEARCH&iid=ff35b702-e6a8-4423-b014-16c84f6f0092.9789387280106.SEARCH&ppt=Search%20Page>, and MOM1AUpFront <http://www.authorsupfront.com/movements.htm>
Jai Sen, ed, 2017 – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?.  New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press.  Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>
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