In Portland, “Trump’s personal militia” at work

In Portland,

© Noah Berger
Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland on Monday.

For nearly two weeks, unknown security forces have been working alongside local police, on orders from Washington, to disperse the Black Lives Matter militants.

They spring from unmarked cars, dressed in brand new khaki uniforms worthy of the Iraq War, to call out to demonstrators, or, too often, simple passers-by suspected of being “Dangerous anarchists”. A video shows one of their commandos overpowering ten, with the help of a police dog, a tagger in federal court in Portland, Oregon.

These unknown police forces, devoid of any insignia indicating their identity or their original administration, have been working alongside the Portland police for nearly two weeks to disperse the rassemblements de militants Black Lives Matter, still active since George Floyd’s death. While they sometimes unofficially coordinate their actions with local police officers, known for their brutality, they only take their orders from Washington. Essentially from the Department of Homeland Security, the homeland security administration founded after September 11, now tightly controlled by Donald Trump himself – much to the dismay of the local authorities, who claim they never asked for such reinforcement. “These dozens, even hundreds of federal officers who land in our city only make the situation worse, lamented Ted Wheeler, the Democratic mayor of Portland. Their presence only increases violence and vandalism. ”

In response, Donald Trump announced that he intended to continue these deployments in other cities, such as Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Oakland (in California), as well as … New York, which no longer knows of demonstrations of scale, to restore order in municipalities “Badly led by Left Democrats”.

No jurisdiction on public roads

The White House offensive, described as a manifestation of authoritarianism and a constitutional crisis by the Aclu, a major association for the defense of civil rights, caused a shock in public opinion. Rejected, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic president of the House of Representatives, calls for the withdrawal of “Donald Trump’s assault troops”. Tom Ridge, first director of the Homeland Security Department between 2003 and 2005, for his part recalled that this agency of the federal state was not designed “To serve as a personal militia for Donald Trump”.

Maintaining order has traditionally been the responsibility of local authorities: states but more commonly city mayors, elected sheriffs and county leaders. Federal forces, such as the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and anti-illegal immigration agencies, are only competent for crimes and misdemeanors involving movement between several states or duly listed because of their seriousness on an approved list. by Congress. Except for the protection of federal buildings, a pretext widely used in Portland, they have no jurisdiction over public roads, as they crisscross the city with impunity without permission from local authorities.

Donald Trump, brutalized by the polls and in search of a demonstration of authority, made his honey from the slogan of Black Lives Matter «defund the police», or withdraw funding from the police. The slogan called for an end to the militarization of local law enforcement and a rebalancing of public funds towards social or crime prevention services. The White House sees it as an opportunity to present itself as the champion of law and order in the face of the alleged laxity of elected Democrats, even if it means stoking local conflicts before the November elections.

Bulwark against so-called chaos

The President has not ceased, for three years, to stigmatize “Sanctuary cities” who limit their support to its campaigns to arrest illegal immigrants. He now finds a new opportunity to mount his electoral base, largely rural, against the urban areas, mainly democratic, and to impose himself as a bulwark against the so-called chaos. Donald Trump spoke of Chicago and its terrible crime rate in his apocalyptic inaugural speech in January 2017 to promise the end of this “American massacre”. But it is not known what impact its 100 or so federal investigators will have in a city that saw 62 armed attacks between gangs last weekend. The mayor of Detroit, like that of Philadelphia, politely asks where the President gets his information on the local disorder and crime.

More treacherously, Trump is taking advantage of the anger of local police, especially in New York, or the mayor, Bill de Blasio, reduced the NYPD budget under pressure from Black Lives Matter, to try to destabilize the elected Democrats at a time when, admittedly, crime has increased since deconfinement without reversing twenty years of spectacular progress in city security.

The President has, moreover, increased his hold on the federal forces using not the FBI, which he hates because of the investigations into his possible collusion with Moscow, but of the agencies which are devoted to him, like the border police and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), responsible for the arrests of illegal immigrants. These officers, devoid of any experience in controlling disorder on the public highway, constitute the majority of the troops in khaki uniforms who hunt down the Portland taggers and could soon impose the Trump mark in the ghettos of the South Side, in Chicago.


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