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Trumpfen Sturmabteilung (Trump’s Stormtroopers)

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

It is not hard to see the forces kidnapping individuals and teargassing Portland’s streets as the Trump administration’s private stormtroopers. Although they are operating under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the truth is it is the Executive Branch that issued their orders. If that branch is headed by someone who believes in the rule of law, the likelihood of the current operation in Portland occurring would be considerably less. However, this is the Trump administration we are talking about. This administration has proven over and over that it does not believe the law applies to anyone in it.

It was Trump’s almost complete abuse of the impeachment process that allowed him to get away with his crimes to that point. The ongoing misuse of his ability to pardon criminals has let his cronies back on the streets (or mansions). His use of the military to clear Lafayette Park during recent protests is but one more example of the Trumpist abuse of power. If nothing else, Trump’s White House has proven that the president is above the law if and when he chooses to be.

The establishment of DHS after 9-11 essentially created the foundation for this. That agency centralized many federal police functions, equated their role with “fighting terrorism” and created a force of national stormtroopers. Neither George W. Bush or Obama opposed the direction DHS was heading and even encouraged the trend. The NDAA legislation signed by Obama in 2011, but under consideration since Bush’s time in office, made these types of operations legal. Although they might not be constitutional under certain court understandings, it seems likely they will ultimately be declared legal given the quiet takeover of the courts by Federalists and others who consider the executive branch above the law. If Nixon had such a mechanism, we would have gone fascist in the early 1970s.

However, his attempt to establish such an agency under the so-called Huston plan (authored primarily by presidential aide Tom Huston) was cut down by J Edgar Hoover who saw it as an attempt to take away some of his unwarranted power. The Huston Plan would have centralized most federal police, surveillance and investigative functions under the direction of the White House. As I noted above, the PATRIOT Act and the creation of the DHS in the early days and weeks after 9-11 made this Nixon dream a reality. All federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies were put under a single command. In the years that followed, that command has reflected the interests and politics of the Executive Branch. With Donald Trump as president—and his ongoing Gleichschaltung (replacement of bureaucrats with political appointees who share his fascist tendencies)—the federal government has become a tool of the white supremacist criminal gang Trump represents.

When I lived on the streets of Berkeley back in the mid-1970s, there were a couple cops who were known to force street people they didn’t like into their cruisers for a little “ride” up into the woods in the Berkeley Hills. Occasionally, these rides ended with a beating by these officers; other times they ended with being told to get out and walk home. The latter situation happened to me once. I still don’t know the specific reason for the kidnapping, although I was part of a collective trying to organize the houseless at the time and the newspaper, we published was quite critical of the Berkeley and University of California police.

Anyhow, my point is that these kidnappings are not new to policing. Indeed, ICE has been doing this for decades (even before it was known as ICS). In addition, non-white residents of the United States exist at the whim of the police, especially those who live in working-class neighborhoods. However, their apparent adoption as a regular part of DHS policing is particularly ominous. Furthermore, now that these policies have been initiated against US citizens, it seems unlikely future presidents will want to stop their use. After all, it’s always handy to be able to go after those you consider a threat and use whatever powers you want.

Reading the press releases from Homeland Security illustrates a few things about the Trumpists. If the consequences weren’t so serious and potentially deadly, one could even find them funny. Let me quote verbatim from the release:

05/30/2020

* Violent anarchists graffitied the BPA Building.

* Violent anarchists graffitied the Hatfield Courthouse.

* Violent anarchists graffitied the Edith Green-Wenell Wyatt Building.

* Violent anarchists graffitied the Terry Schrunk Plaza.

* Violent anarchists graffitied the 911 Federal Building.

* Violent anarchists graffitied the Pioneer Courthouse.

* Violent anarchists graffitied the Gus J. Solomon Courthouse.

06/01/2020

* Violent anarchists graffitied the Hatfield Courthouse.

* Violent anarchists graffitied Terry Schrunk Plaza.

* Violent anarchists graffitied The Pioneer Courthouse.

* Violent anarchists graffitied The Gus J Solomon Courthouse.

06/02/2020

* Violent anarchists graffitied the U.S. Custom House.

06/06/2020

* Violent anarchists destroyed fencing surrounding federal property.

06/07/2020

* Violent anarchists damaged and breached the fence around the Hatfield Courthouse.

* Portland Police were forced to deploy crowd control spray to disperse a crowd that was throwing animal seed at officers.

06/08/2020

* Violent anarchists broke a window at the Hatfield Courthouse while pelting the building with objects.

* Violent anarchists cut a hole in the fence surrounding Hatfield Courthouse.

06/10/2020

* Violent anarchists removed the entire fence around Hatfield Courthouse and graffitied its front columns.

* Violent anarchists attempted to remove wooden barriers from a window on the Hatfield Courthouse.

06/11/2020

* Violent anarchists dismantled a section of the fence protecting the Edith Green-Wenell Wyatt Federal Building.

06/13/2020

* Violent anarchists destroyed the card reader at the Hatfield Courthouse by ripping it off its mount.

* Violent anarchists destroyed the fence at the Hatfield Courthouse.

* Violent anarchists threw metal pipes at the Hatfield Courthouse, causing Portland Police to issue a disbursal warning for unlawful assembly.

06/17/2020

* Violent anarchists graffitied the Hatfield Courthouse.

06/20/2020

* Among a group of over 400 protesters marching in front of the Pioneer Courthouse, violent anarchists attempted to cause eye damage to officers with commercial grade lasers.

* Violent anarchists graffitied the Gus J. Solomon Courthouse.

06/25/2020

* Violent anarchists vandalized an FPS camera at the Hatfield Courthouse.

* Violent anarchists breached the fence of the Justice Center, adjacent to the courthouse.

06/30/2020

* Violent anarchists ripped down plywood covering the windows at the Edith Green-Wenell Wyatt Building, before breaking the windows.

7/01/2020

* Violent anarchists graffitied new plywood covering the windows at the Hatfield Courthouse and ripped down plywood on the other side of the building.

* A group of over 200 violent anarchists blocked access to the building and proceeded to launch aerial fireworks at federal property.

07/02/2020

* Violent anarchists broke a front window to the Hatfield Courthouse and attempted to enter the building.

* Violent anarchists refused orders to vacate the Hatfield Courthouse area, and instead launched fireworks and threw objects at officers, while attempting to cause eye damage with lasers. One explosive firework was shot into the courthouse.

* FPS law enforcement officers were forced to utilized crowd control measures for safety.

07/03/2020

* After ongoing riots around the Hatfield Courthouse, crowds were dispersed only to make a return later into the night.

* Violent Anarchists broke the front window of the Hatfield U.S. Courthouse and shot fireworks into the building.

* Violent anarchists firebombed the building. Federal law enforcement extinguished the fire.

07/04/2020

* Around 1,000 violent anarchists spray painted, threw rocks, and shot fireworks (including mortar style fireworks) at the Hatfield Courthouse. They also destroyed a security camera at the facility.

* A CBP team supporting FPS at the courthouse arrested suspects from the graffiti and camera vandalism incidents.

* The mob continued to throw rocks and paint-filled balloons, while attempting to breach the doors.

* Teams were forced to utilize crowd control measures for safety.

* Multiple individuals were seen carrying rifles, including the driver of a vehicle who attempted to strike a Portland Police Bureau officer with his car in front of the Hatfield Courthouse.

07/05/2020

* A hostile crowd of about 250 violent anarchists returned to the vicinity of Hatfield Courthouse to vandalize and attack numerous facilities and police, while failing to comply with dispersal order.

* Violent anarchists surrounded and blocked law enforcement from the area as extremists proceeded to attack police with thrown projectiles and large mortar style fireworks.

* Two Portland Police Bureau officers were injured by the crowd (possible concussion).

* Portland Police Bureau took five into custody for directing lasers against aircraft.

* Violent anarchists set fires in front of Hatfield Courthouse and Chapman park.

* At the entrance of Hatfield Courthouse, Violent Anarchists fired large fireworks and threw other dangerous objects toward the entrance and the personnel protecting it.

* The mob was pushed completely out of the area of Hatfield Courthouse; FPS made two arrests during push.

* Portland Police made multiple arrests and found a loaded weapon on one subject.

* Two more violent anarchists were arrested, and one was found to be carrying what appears to be a pipe bomb.

* Violent anarchists assaulted construction crews by targeting them with fireworks while they repaired Hatfield Building.

* A joint team had to be deployed to create buffer between violent anarchists and construction crew to protect construction workers.

07/06/2020

* Violent anarchists attempted to cause vision damage to personnel with lasers. Five arrests were made for assaulting law enforcement.

07/07/2020

* Violent anarchists held a “Night of Rage,” in which a 400-500-person protest devolved into riots, assaulting law enforcement officers and federal property.

* Approximately 200 violent anarchists began pursuing law enforcement officers to disrupt enforcement actions, assaulting them with rocks and bottles.

* Around 150 violent anarchists in front of the Justice Center began attacking personnel with lasers and peppered the area with fireworks.

* Three violent anarchists were arrested for attacking law enforcement.

07/08/2020

* Approximately 200 violent anarchists attacked DHS law enforcement officers while apprehending a subject who was wanted for property damage.

* One arrest was made after three law enforcement officers were injured.

* Law enforcement officers’ personal information was publicly exposed, including FPS, ICE, and CBP personnel.

* Violent anarchists continued to attack officers with lasers.

07/09/2020

* Violent anarchists attacked DHS law enforcement officers while apprehending a subject who was wanted for property damage.

* A violent anarchist graffitied the Hatfield courthouse.

* An unidentified subject fired several shots from a gun into the air from the rear seat of a passing white SUV.

07/10/2020

* Crowds of approximately 300 violent anarchists vandalized federal property and cameras with spray paint, blocked roadways, and assaulted law enforcement officers.

* Three were arrested for Assault on a Federal Officer.

* Violent anarchists attempted to ambush Portland Police Department PD during their shift change, but a DHS team was deployed and able to prevent any attacks.

07/11/2020

* DHS law enforcement officers supported local police to help a violent anarchist who overdosed.

* Four violent anarchists were arrested, including one who attempted to assault an officer with a hammer.

* Violent anarchists sieged the barricade of the courthouse and tried to damage it with a large hammer.

* A law enforcement officer was assaulted with blows from a hammer. Violent anarchists fought officers while they were arresting those responsible.

07/12/2020

* Six violent anarchists were detained and cited.

* A mob of 300 refused to comply with directions not to trespass on federal property.

* Another mob of 200 individuals armed with sledgehammers, tasers and/or stun guns, gathered in Chapman Park across from the Hatfield Courthouse.

* Violent anarchists launched fireworks, threw fecal matter and large objects, and pointed lasers at federal law enforcement officers.

* Violent anarchists deployed a plywood blockade while graffitiing the Edith Green-Wenell Wyatt Federal Building, before firing wrist rockets at the facility.

* When an arrest team was deployed to apprehend a rioter who encroached on a police barrier and refused to leave, they were assaulted by violent anarchists.

* A rioter trespassed on the steps of the Hatfield Courthouse and was confronted by federal law enforcement Officers, then swallowed a large amount of narcotics. Law enforcement called medical services after the individual started to convulse.

* Despite more orders to stay off of federal property and to cease unlawful activity, FPS was forced to push back violent anarchists. The Portland Police Bureau declared the mob an unlawful assembly.

07/13/2020

* Violent anarchists released personal information of federal law enforcement officers to the public, publishing names of those in Portland.

* Violent anarchists continued to assault law enforcement officers with lasers, slingshots and fireworks. Others were armed with sledge hammers, tasers, and stun guns, and dragged flaming debris into the scene.

07/14/2020

* Violent anarchists set a container of liquid on fire at the Terry Schrunk Plaza.

* Violent anarchists jumped a fence and attempted to breach the Edith Green Federal Building.

* Violent anarchists assaulted federal law enforcement officers with cans and other hard objects while they attempted to unblock the entrance of the Edith Green Federal Building.

07/15/2020

* Violent anarchists doxed members of federal law enforcement.

* Violent anarchists attempted to damage the Hatfield Courthouse by throwing objects at it and spray painting it. Numerous fireworks were also lit.

* Violent anarchists trespassed on federal property and destroyed a card reader at the Justice Center.

These are from a press release dated July 16, 2020 and posted on a page of the DHS website. The author of the memo is the acting secretary of DHS, Chad Wolf. You have to admit, it is somewhat comical. The constant repetition of the phrase violent anarchist tends to pale when one reads the supposed reasoning that makes them such—graffiti, doxing, and protesting hardly require the storm trooper tactics being used by DHS. It’s clear from this release, though, that its intention is to create fear amongst the ordinary citizen of the United States, much like the characterization of all Wobblies as violent anarchists and terrorists did in the early twentieth century. Once this unwarranted fear is established, even greater violations of the targeted population’s rights and liberties will be tolerated. There are members of the Black Panther Party who are in prison to this day because of a similar campaign against them by the FBI, the White House and other law enforcement agencies.

People who have been following this story are probably aware of at least two lawsuits challenging the actions and presence of the federal forces in Portland. One suit is from the state of Oregon and the other is from the ACLU. While it is important to support these challenges to the federal troopers, I will be surprised if the lawsuits succeed in preventing the DHS and White House from carrying out similar operations in the future. As Vermont attorney and New York Prisoner legal advocate Michael Cassidy pointed out in an email to me, “The judge in the ACLU case already issued an order against the local cops, and they have apparently complied (Portland police joined the federal cops in their sweep the night of July 18, 2020-Ron).

Will the feds comply with the same order that this same judge is highly likely to issue?  We’ll see. But if they don’t it is just one further step for everyone to see how authoritarian and fascist these agencies are.  As to the State AG’s case, I think it’s really important for them to stand up to Trump and his thugs, on the record.  If they had not, it would have emboldened them to continue.  Maybe this will give them some pause on these particular outrageous tactics anyway.  They may not pull out and leave, but hopefully they’ll stop the abductions.  And if they don’t and if the court censors them and they still don’t, then again it is a flouting of the rule of law that most everyone can see is wrong.  It presses the issue, and hopefully will anger people and turn more public opinion against their actions.  Any legal appeals will go to the Ninth Circuit too, and that is one of the best Circuits in the country so it is more likely of favorable holdings there too.”

The federal forces involved in the Portland actions are using powers given to them by the PATRIOT Act and other legislative and administrative actions over the years, including the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA). It would require an extremely long and fortuitous legal process to nullify the elements of these laws that allow for the deployment of DHS police in this manner. Given the ongoing takeover of the federal court system referred to earlier in this piece, the odds are with the White House and not the ACLU or the state of Oregon. Indeed, if DHS Deputy Director Cuccinelli’s words in a recent interview are any indication, other US cities will also be occupied by these forces of fascism.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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