Pearl River Portland, Oregon is a long way from the rest of the country, squeezed between Seattle and California, the lower Cascades and the Pacific Ocean. Every once in a great while it sneaks into the nation’s consciousness as the home of “Portlandia” hipsters, coffee houses, and microbreweries and as a landing pad for the young and restless looking for a place to root. To many in the rest of America, Portland is as much caricature as city, but suddenly, surprisingly Portland must have become the kind of obsession for President Trump that Hillary Clinton once was. How else can we understand what now seems an unprecedented, unwarranted federally militarized invasion of the city?
The excuse for putting what has been confirmed to be literally thousands of militarized forces from the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Protective Service into the city is the fact that some folks in Portland have had the temerity to protest for fifty consecutive days in Portland over the death of George Floyd and a host of issues with the local police and city. Somehow this had escaped me until I was driving yesterday and out of range of WAMF, our New Orleans noncommercial station, and stumbled on the dial to an NPR interview with Ken Cuccinelli, which was one of the most frightening things I have ever heard anywhere from anybody. To hear him tell it, Portland had descended into hellish anarchy, and the mass mobilization of forces was ostensibly justified to protect federal property like the court house.
The New York Times reports that the continued protests involve a hardcore of 250 or so people who are now being met by supposedly non-lethal tactics, severe enough to fracture the skull of one semi-protestor bystander. Unmarked vans driven by camouflaged feds without identification are picking up protestors off the street and taking them to random locations, supposedly for questioning. Cuccinelli complains that the local police and authorities have refused to use some of these tactics, just as he claims that this more than 10-1 ratio of federal police, or whatever we call them, is necessary. No ID, he claims is to prevent doxing. For the life of me this sounds like the gestapo of a new fascism has hit the streets of Portland.
The Oregon Attorney General has sued and asked the DHS inspector general to investigate unauthorized arrests on city streets. The Mayor says this is “an attack on democracy.” The two US Senators have demanded an investigation. This is the federal government imposing itself over the will of local and state authorities. Reporters and others are arguing that this is nothing but a photo-op for the president on his phony-baloney antifa crusade.
Why the heck is this Cuccinelli stirring this pot? Turns out he has a fake title as senior deputy director of DHS and the Immigration Service, because he couldn’t get confirmed by the U. S. Senate. A federal judge ruled that he was appointed illegally. He’s a former AG in Virginia who lost in a race for governor. While there he led the fights against immigration, abortion, and homosexuality. This is no freedom fighter or protector of any American rights. This is a zealot with access to a type of police in a time when funding for the police and their military tactics is part of the issue. This is a human gasoline bomb thrown on a raging fire of anger.
We’ve crossed a line in Portland. It needs to be redrawn or our country is gone.