In a stunning overreach, President Donald Trump’s administration ordered federal agents to police Portland and Chicago protests. This perversion of the federal duty to provide help and stability has provoked righteous anger.
Federal protection of the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse is Portland is defensible. Sending Homeland Security Department agents into city streets to use brutal tactics veers into dystopian governance.
Policing greater Portland is a matter for local government, where citizens can hold leaders directly accountable for tactics and decisions. The DHS has no role using force within an American city where local and state officials do not want the intervention.
Yet, federal agents remain on the scene. Results have included “the heavy-handed use of tear gas, impact munitions and batons” as described by The Oregonian. A court filing by protester Mark Pettibone details how “men in green military fatigues and adorned with generic ‘police’ patches jumped out of an unmarked minivan” and snatched him into custody without explanation. He had been walking home peaceably after a Black Lives Matter demonstration, he wrote.
These federal actions sabotaged attempts to restore peace. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who filed suit asking a federal judge to intervene, took her plea to President Donald Trump via Twitter Monday:
“The presence of your federal agents has made things significantly worse,” she wrote, “including causing the greatest injuries so far. Thanks, but no thanks!”
Seattleites should watch this shocking situation warily. Trump himself claimed two weeks ago he had threatened Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan with a similar intervention. Plans to dispatch agents into other cities “run by very liberal Democrats” — Trump’s words — appear underway. The Chicago Tribune reported that 150 Homeland Security agents were Chicago-bound.
These deployments must be stopped. Federal courts must forbid tactics that violate Constitutional rights. The U.S. Senate must demand that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf — in his job since November — face confirmation hearings. If Wolf believes his actions are justified, let him defend them before the nation.
Without accountability, the brutality happening in Portland may explode into still more violence.