Heavily armed, unidentifiable security agents dressed in camouflage have been snatching anti-racism protesters off the streets of Portland, Oregon, and bundling them into unmarked cars, with no clear justification. They’re scenes you might expect to see in authoritarian countries, not in America.
It turns out that among the hodge-podge of paramilitary-style officers wearing no name badges were many from the Department of Homeland Security, established after 9/11 primarily to deal with terrorism. More specifically, the officers were from the department’s Customs and Border Protection agency, which is supposed “to safeguard America’s borders” from dangerous people and materials.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly branded anti-racism protesters in the country as “terrorists,” and his promise to “surge” his paramilitary-style units from Portland to other Democrat-run cities in coming weeks shows he is willing to employ the repressive tactics used by autocrats to vilify those who challenge them.
In a letter to the Justice and Homeland Security departments, Oregon Congress members Jeffrey Merkley, Ron Wyden, Suzanne Bomamici and Earl Blumenauer lashed out at Trump following the crackdown in Portland, likening officers pushing protesters into unmarked SUVs to tactics used in authoritarian countries.