The past few weeks we have seen some quite troubling visuals of secret police descending on cities across the country. We first witnessed these unnamed armed individuals in Washington, D.C. Members of Congress and even the mayor could not identify who they were, who exactly deployed them, and what branch of the armed services to which they belong.

More recently we have seen overly aggressive secret police descend on Portland, Oregon with rubber bullets, tear gas, and unmarked vans that have taken protestors away as they simply walked down the street. They have no identification and seem to be sanctioned by the highest levels of government. Recently, the president has said he will deploy more secret police to major cities like Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, and New York.

The idea of secret police should scare us all, whether or not we live in one of the cities on Attorney General Barr and President Trump’s list. For scholars who study authoritarian regimes, fascism, and the demise of democracies, tactics like secret police are quite standard. In addition to unsanctioned military style tactics and excessive use of force used on its own citizens, the censorship of the media and those who speak out against the government are also tactics used to weaken and destroy a democracy.

We must pay attention to the ways this administration has eroded away democratic principles over the last three plus years. The president has sadly normalized abusive behavior, blatant lies that often go unchecked in the media, militarization of the police to work on behalf of an individual instead of upholding the law, and refusal to work with anyone who does not support his agenda.

We must stay vigilant as we get closer to election day on November 3. The president has already asked foreign powers to intervene in the election, we have already seen voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement tactics in cities and towns across the country, and we must connect the president’s desire to defund the U.S. Postal Service with his direct desire to disrupt the high volume of absentee ballot voting (since his abysmal handling of the coronavirus will necessitate millions of Americans voting by mail).

There are so many areas of concern these days pertaining to our health, the economy, and so much more. However, we must keep our eye on the insidious ways the president and his administration are attempting to normalize violence against its own citizens. We also must put pressure on our elected officials at all levels to speak out against these unchecked actions.

In order to make sure your voice is heard, please make sure you are registered to vote. In addition, please begin to craft a voting plan for you, your family, and your friends. It’s not too early. Our democracy depends on your planning and attention.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.