In a recent Empire opinion piece, I asked if the Grand Old Party had simply lost their way with their continued support of Trump, whose portfolio includes exacerbating global instability, compulsive lying, a disastrous federal pandemic response, and almost four years of divisive, violence-inciting rhetoric. And just when it didn’t seem possible that Trump could incite more bedlam, he unleashed federal paramilitary forces, armed with tear gas and rubber bullets used against moms, dads and military veterans peaceably demonstrating.
Primarily peaceful demonstrations have continued in many cities and most notably Portland, Oregon, in support of Black Lives Matter. In early July, men dressed in camouflage with no visible identifiers arrived in unmarked cars in Portland and began literally kidnapping citizens off the street. American citizens were abducted from peaceful demonstrations, near federal buildings and for simply walking home at night. American citizens were transported to federal facilities and questioned by personnel who initially refused to identify who they represented. American citizens were interrogated, denied access to telephones, legal representation and not read their rights. Most were released but it’s unclear if anyone is still being held without due process.
These camouflaged troops are under the command of Homeland Security, a department developed by George W. Bush after 9/11 to respond to external terrorist threats. Current and former military leaders raised grave concerns over Trump’s proposed use of the regular military to quell demonstrations, so on June 26 Trump issued an executive order that allowed him to use Department of Homeland Security agents against American citizens.
After Trump’s paramilitary incursion on what had been primarily peaceful demonstrations, Portland mothers literally put on mom T-shirts and took to the streets arm-in-arm to protect the constitutional right of Americans to peacefully demonstrate. When moms were attacked with tear gas, Portland fathers showed up with hockey sticks and leaf blowers. Brilliant — Dads used hockey sticks to lob the tear gas canisters back at the militia and leaf blowers to clear the air of tear gas. This last weekend, Portland’s military veterans joined the protests standing in front of the moms and dads.
Portland Mayor and Chief of Police Ted Wheeler asked the federal troops to leave. He, too, joined the protests and was tear gassed. The state of Oregon asked the court to intervene to halt the invasion of federal troops and 12 more states have signed on. Oregon Senators Merkley and Wyden have indicated they will introduce an amendment to the defense bill to stop the Trump administration “from sending its paramilitary squads” to American streets.
Trump’s response has been to send more paramilitary troops to other cities, primarily represented by Democratic mayors. Chicago Mayor Lightfoot has condemned the deployment, saying “Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump’s troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our citizens”.
Even more alarming than Trump sending paramilitary forces to terrorize Americans is that few in Congress appear to have the constitutional knowledge, moral backbone and political will to stand up to Trump’s continued abuse of power. To her credit, Senator Murkowski commented once in June that she was struggling to continue to vote for Trump but Alaska’s congressional delegation has been otherwise mute. As Alaska has a long history of supporting state’s rights, it’s surprising that Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Representative Young are silent. No outrage at the federal abuse of power or misuse of federal resources. No indignation at the use of federal force and violence against innocent American citizens. Not one word.
Americans, Republican or Democrat, have simply had enough of the chaos and are well past the tipping point. It’s time to clear the way and return to a principled democratic process. Our Congressional delegation must speak up and Congress must actively suppress Trump’s blatant abuses of power. Congress must guarantee Americans a fair election in order to elect a president and representatives that stand for upholding the Constitution. At some point, it will be too late to repair the damage being done to our country and our democracy.
Congress can begin the healing by acting now. Our Alaska delegation could lead the way.
• Deborah Craig is a deeply concerned citizen and activist.