It’s only mid July, but we’ve already witnessed enough crazy phenomena in 2020 to fill an entire decade. What’s next? Protesters getting disappeared by federal officers dressed in camouflage driving unmarked cars in, let’s say… Portland? Why not. Just when you thought Covid-19 was the thing to fear this summer, let’s add Trump’s secret police to the mix.
Over the weekend we saw unidentified federal officers attack protesters unprovoked and effectively kidnap others in unmarked cars. You might think this story belongs in Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, or Iran, but it’s also happening in the Don’s America.
The Trump administration first started to use these federal officers in Washington D.C. back in early June in response to the protests over the murder of George Floyd. Washington was the trial run and Portland certainly looks like the next dress rehearsal. If you ask Trump, he’s just getting started.
According to the White House, Trump’s secret police are there to protect government property and statues. Trump is on record as saying he want’s to put down Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police protests whom he described as “anarchists” and people who “hate our country.”
Trump said on the weekend that “we’re not gonna let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.” He later went on to threaten action in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, and Oakland.
The Portland Mayor and Oregon Governor have both denounced the use of unidentified federal officers and have taken legal action against the federal government. Mayor Wheeler said there were “dozens if not hundreds of federal troops” in Portland. “Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism,” he added.
Using force against citizens exercising their First Amendment rights is unconstitutional on its own, whether it’s undertaken by local police or otherwise. What Trump is doing by circumventing state’s rights adds a whole new layer to the problem.
“The idea that there’s a threat to a federal courthouse and the federal authorities are going to swoop in and do whatever they want to do without any cooperation and coordination with state and local authorities is extraordinary, outside the context of a civil war,” said Michael Dorf, a professor of constitutional law at Cornell University.
“It is a standard move of authoritarians to use the pretext of quelling violence to bring in force, thereby prompting a violent response and then bootstrapping the initial use of force in the first place,” Said Dorf.
He’s right. It’s fascism 101. With the country going through a major health and economic crises, Trump may just have to rely on this tactic more and more. It’s part of his campaign strategy to spread chaos and broaden his message of law-and-order.
University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole wrote Monday that “Part of Trump’s re-election strategy is to scare the white suburbs, which polls show have soured on him, with ‘urban’ minority violence. The exercise also has the advantage for Trump of entrenching a new form of secret police and of turning federal agents into instruments of his authoritarianism.”
To summarize, Trump’s authoritarian strategy is on full display. Sending unaccountable federal agents dressed like military troops to Democratic-run cities, on the pretext of protecting Federal property. These troops then attack and provoke Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police protesters, causing violence to escalate. The increasing violence is then used to scare the mostly white suburbs, where Trump is losing his foothold.
It’s unconstitutional and immoral, but that hasn’t stopped the president before. The fact that these federal officers are unidentified, masked and using unmarked cars makes them particularly scary as they are essentially unaccountable.
You can see it in their actions. Take naval officer Christopher David as an example. He saw the Federal agents acting unconstitutionally and approached them. All he wanted to do was talk to them about how they were violating their oath of office. They responded by fracturing his hand in two places then they pepper-sprayed him in the eyes, twice.
Trump’s secret police are exemplifying the very thing that BLM and Defund the Police are protesting. Perhaps that’s the point, the Trump administration knows these protesters aren’t about to back down. Nor should they.
But that brings us to what is coming. The more these federal officers spread across democratic cities in the country, the more likely something tragic will happen. What happens if these feds get caught in a tangle with local police and the protesters get caught in the crossfire?
We all know about the burning of the Reichstag. It was the German parliament building that was deliberately burned down a month after Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. Hitler’s government falsely attributed the fire to communist agitators.
President Hindenburg soon signed the Reichstag Fire Decree into law which suspended most civil liberties in Germany. These rights were never reinstated during Hitler’s reign. It is widely believed that the Nazis were the ones who set the Reichstag ablaze.
It may sound crazy on the surface, but the United States is only one fire away from going through the same thing. The pieces are in place. The secret police “protecting property,” Joe Biden being demonized as a radical leftist. A Democratic Party relatively silent in its opposition.
The pandemic was seen as the perfect storm for Trump to lose re-election. He was leading in match-ups against Biden before Covid-19 came around. It’s now looking like the pandemic is the perfect storm for Trump to seize power.