Once again Portland, Oregon is the epicenter of turmoil and resentment as the city’s George Floyd demonstrators have pushed the Trump administration to the brink of authoritarian rule.
The last several days in this city the presence of federally deployed agents have intensified the confrontations and this may merely be the testing ground for Trump’s plan to tamp down what he sees as “ugly anarchists” and “domestic terrorists.” When Trump’s paramilitary troops arrived at Portland’s autonomous zone the temporary calm was replaced by mayhem.
“This is not a dictatorship,” was a chant that echoed from some of the protesters. “This is a democracy!”
Trump has promised to extend this militaristic approach to other cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City where large African American populations are governed by Democratic mayors.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, in a letter to Trump, wrote that federal troops are not what is needed in her city. “What we do not need, and what will certainly make our community less safe is secret, federal agents deployed to Chicago. Any other form of militarized assistance within our borders that would not be within our control or within the direct command of the Chicago Police Department would spell disaster,” she wrote.
“As any law enforcement official will tell you,” the mayor continued, “what is needed more than anything in an operation to protect lives is a clear mission, a detailed operations plan, and a chain of command. Secret, federal agents who do not know Chicago, are unfamiliar with the unique circumstances of our neighborhoods and who would operate outside the established infrastructure of local law enforcement would not be effective, regardless of the number, and worse will foment a massive wave of opposition.”
She voiced this complaint as federal agents were in preparation to enter the city.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, during a podcast interview on Yahoo News, said that Trump’s offensive was mainly to stoke his base and reverse his dwindling poll numbers against Joe Biden. “If you’re getting shellacked today, you’re looking to try to find some approaches that will be a contrast,” Wyden said. “I guess if you have such a horrible record on dealing with the coronavirus, which is spiking all over the country, you say to yourself ‘I’m not sure we can figure out how to get well there [so] let’s go out and tell America that the people in these cities aren’t like them, don’t have their values, and they’re either anarchists or they are sympathetic to the anarchists.’”
He said that he and Jeff Merkley, the state’s other Democratic senator, have introduced an amendment to a defense bill in debate in the Senate to block unidentified federal agents or officers from descending on cities in the future.
Such a bill may not arrive in time to stop the deployment of Trump’s troops.