If you had to make a choice in the streets of Portland, would you run?
For the last 50+ days, the city of Portland has been under siege. Protestors have been rioting, burning, looting, destroying, and have basically taken over the greater Portland metroplex.
Well, not really.
For 50+, according to both news reports and accounts from my friends that live close to downtown and in areas in and around Portland, protestors have made a few square blocks in the heart of downtown Portland pretty miserable and have damaged some federal buildings with graffiti and even some illegal fireworks.
Sounds relatively harmless. But I’ll venture there’s some cases of protestors going too far and things spinning out of hand. But if you’re not insanely frightened by what’s happening in Portland, you should be. But not by the protestors.
Federal officers, without any identification of agency other than patches that said “police”, wearing camo fatigues and carrying unlimited tear gas, pepper balls, and automatic weapons have been snatching (the best word I can use) protestors off the streets from locally rented unmarked minivans and holding them for random periods of time. Acting Director of Homeland Security, Ken Cuccinelli said that the “officers” are identifying themselves but at the beginning of pursuits and only to the person they are pursuing. Videos are showing a far different story. And these “officers” aren’t engaging with crowds at all, which is making things worse.
These “officers” are being tasked from a special unit of the the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). They are being tasks under a mandate to protect federal buildings and monuments.
In a tweet, President Trump said: “We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it,” Trump said. “Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!”
We can debate endlessly whether these “officers” are needed in Portland, whether the conditions in this small part of downtown warrant this federal response. But my concern today is different than that.
What’s happening in Portland is as un-American as anyone can imagine and insanely dangerous is a way that hasn’t been covered in the media with any urgency.
Let me take you to the streets of Portland. Or Chicago. Or Minneapolis. (All cities that the President has offered/threatened to send these same “officers” to “help” get those cities “under control” too). Or maybe your city will be next. The Trump Administration (not just Trump, but literally multiple parts of his government) is seeking to make this a reality across the country.
Imagine you’re walking down the street in your city and an unmarked van rolls up near you. Maybe you were at a protest, but maybe you weren’t. Maybe you were just walking home.
From this van, men in camo fatigues and body armor jump out and train automatic weapons on you. They don’t say anything to you, they simply point multiple guns at you. All you see is camo. You can’t seen tiny police patches on their arms… it’s dark, and they have flashlights in your face. All you hear, if they say anything at all, is “GET DOWN ON THE GROUND!” All you know is that heavily armed men popped out of a minivan like your the one your neighbor drives and are now screaming at you.
If you have time to think at all, you might remember that in Michigan recently, men who looked just like these guys, random men with no police authority or affiliation showed up at the Michigan State Capitol and pushed their way in, screaming at actual police officers and shut down the business of government.
If you have time to think at all, you know that you’re near a protest and that where there are protests for causes like Black Lives Matter or against Confederate statues, there are counter-protestors who show up dressed in military costumes carrying loaded weapons and are affiliated with right wing hate groups there to sow discord.
So you’re walking down the street after protesting (or just near a protest) and an unmarked minivan with unidentified armed men chase you down and attempt to abduct you.
What do you do?
Do you ASSUME they are the police, someone to “trust”?
What if you get it wrong and these people are vigilantes out to literally abduct you and do you harm? What if you are a person of color and these are white nationalists who are looking to hurt you, torture you, kill you.
You have one second to decide whether to run or submit.
Run to save your life. Submit to save your life.
Because if you’re wrong, you’re dead. If you run and they’re cops, they can shoot you. (And get away with it) If you don’t run and they’re vigilantes, you could be killed. And maybe the POTUS pardons those vigilantes like he pardoned the Navy SEAL convicted of war crimes.
Because these are unidentified men in camo getting out of an unmarked minivan threatening you for protesting.
And the NRA? Quiet. The “Don’t Tread on Me” crowd? Silent. Republicans who claim to be against tyranny? They’re the “law and order party” who put these “officers” on the streets in the place. The “state’s rights” crowd? Completely ignoring the fact that Oregon leaders didn’t ask for these “officers” to show up and have asked them to leave.
If you don’t think the annals of history hold a template for what can happen in America you’re out of your damn mind. It’s happening in front of us. Today. Right now. In Portland.
The way that federal officials are talking about managing the Portland protestors is a counter-insurgency approach. They’re talking about terrorists and overwhelming force. They’re talking about insurgents.
Except that they’re ignoring a few key points: these aren’t actually terrorists (no matter how much they try to make these local Americans into ANTIFA boogeymen), they aren’t foreign adversaries (they’re American citizens with American rights), and even if this was a counter-insurgency issue, they’re ignoring the entire counter-insurgency playbook. (Hint: counter-insurgency strategies don’t start with blasting the insurgencies with pepper balls until your supply runs dry)
We should be in the streets protesting this shameful and illegal federal over reach. Every one of us. Especially every single person who screamed about Jade Helm.
But every one of us, you and me included, are thinking twice about protesting about this insanity because we’re not sure if we will have to make this life or death decision to run.
We read history books and ask “why didn’t people stop ____[insert evil dictator]___??”
You just answered your own question.