Jul 22, 2020
Oregon's Democratic senators unveiled an amendment Tuesday to bar President Donald Trump from sending "paramilitary forces" into U.S. cities as unidentified and unwelcome federal agents continue to violently attack racial justice demonstrators in the streets of Portland.
"What we're seeing in my hometown is authoritarian brutality unleashed against peaceful protesters--moms and veterans and doctors and activists who are standing up for liberty and justice," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a speech on the Senate floor unveiling his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
"Secret police, unmarked, patrolling streets, throwing people into unmarked vehicles and sweeping them away--that's what you get from authoritarian dictators."
--Sen. Jeff Merkley
"What Donald Trump is doing is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy laid out by our founders and expanded through the generations," Wyden continued. "Donald Trump did not send in this paramilitary force to keep people safe. Trump is doing this to create images of chaos, to air them on far-right television and in campaign ads, and scare the country into reelecting him."
Amendment co-sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) used his floor speech Tuesday to highlight the case of Donavan LaBella, a 26-year-old peaceful demonstrator whose skull was fractured when federal officers shot him in the head with an impact munition during a protest earlier this month.
"Secret police, unmarked, patrolling streets, throwing people into unmarked vehicles and sweeping them away--that's what you get from authoritarian dictators, not a country, a republic where we have a Constitution and we have rights," said Merkley. "That's what's going on here. That's what has to stop."
According to a summary of the measure released by Merkley's office, the amendment would "limit federal agents' crowd control activities to federal property and its immediate vicinity, unless their presence is specifically requested by both the mayor and governor." The proposal would also "require individual and agency identification on uniforms of officers and prevent unmarked vehicles from being used in arrests."
\u201cHAPPENING NOW: I'm on the Floor to demand the Senate take up our amendment ending the use of Trump's secret police in Portland & across the country. Dictators use secret police, not leaders of a Democratic Republic. This has to stop, & it has to stop now. https://t.co/0znr6q1Wms\u201d— Senator Jeff Merkley (@Senator Jeff Merkley) 1595367441
The amendment came as large protests continued in Portland for the 55th consecutive night Tuesday. As Oregon Live reported:
Portlanders have amassed every night since late May to demand reforms to the criminal justice system. The crowds had decreased in size. But repeated use of force by federal officers against protesters--which occurred again Tuesday--has fueled larger crowds and attracted nationwide scrutiny to Portland.
A pair of parent groups, the Wall of Moms and PDXDadPod, organized in recent days to attend the protests. More than 200 women connected to the moms group showed up at Tuesday night's protests to rally against the presence of federal officers. One person held a sign that said, "You need a time out."
On Monday, as Common Dreams reported, Trump threatened to deploy federal forces to Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, and Oakland to confront Black Lives Matter protesters.
In a letter Monday to Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, the Democratic mayors of those cities and several others demanded that the Trump administration immediately withdraw federal officials from Portland and scrap any plans to send agents elsewhere.
"The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a national uprising and reckoning," the mayors wrote. "The majority of the protests have been peaceful and aimed at improving our communities. Where this is not the case, it still does not justify the use of federal forces. Unilaterally deploying these paramilitary-type forces into our cities is wholly inconsistent with our system of democracy and our most basic values."
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