Should the President of the United States have the power to send unwanted, unmarked federal police to American cities at will? Should the federal government ever be allowed to send any federal forces into an American city?
These are timely questions given the fact the President has sent some type of federal forces, seemingly some type of federal police force into Portland, Oregon. The pretext for such action was to help control protests against police violence and to protect federal landmarks, federal buildings, and materials. What is wrong with that you ask?
Perhaps nothing if Oregon governor Kate Brown or Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler asked for help. But they did not. Nor do they want these forces in Portland, according to statements both from the governor and the mayor. “Well, unfortunately things were calming down when Trump’s troops appeared on our streets. I was really clear when I spoke with the Secretary of Homeland Security last week. I asked them to leave and that their presence here was not needed,” (Oregon Governor Brown Interview…). Mayor Wheeler commented, “I told the acting secretary that my biggest immediate concern is the violence federal officers brought to our streets in recent days, and the life-threatening tactics his agents use,” Wheeler said. “We do not need or want their help.” (Mayor Ted Wheeler Call on Federal Officers to Leave Portland).
The use of federal forces in America is nothing new. President Herbert Hoover ordered general Douglas MacArthur to disperse the residents of a “Hooverville” just outside of Washington D.C. President Eisenhower used the national guard to escort nine black girls into an all-white school in 1957 to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s desegregation order. U.S. military units under the command of general Honore served as a joint task force to help with relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. However, during all these times, Americans were able to detect which federal forces were helping. The insignias on the men’s uniform were clearly visible to assure citizens they were there to help. The current forces being used have no identifiable insignias and are using unmarked cars to round up some protestors. How is this possible?
Such activity reminds us in history of the early 1930s era in Europe. It was during this time period that fascist street forces, the black shirt forces of Benito Mussolini in Italy and the brown shirt forces of Adolf Hitler in Germany, roamed the streets beating up protestors and whisking them off to unknown places. Can it be this is happening in America in 2020? What law did the protestors break? So long as they are non-violent, Article I of the U.S. Bill of Rights gives citizens the right of freedom of assembly. And what about arresting people without provocation? Did they read them their Miranda rights? Where did they take them? Were they interrogated like common criminals? Why were cars unmarked? Was anybody injured? Why was the National Guard or the U.S. military not used? Did they refuse the President’s request to act upon U.S. citizens in such a manner? Why would the President do such a thing? Was this just political theatre as some speculate to give red meat to a President’s supporters nationwide? Are the President and his party going to use these horrendous scenes in political ads to claim he is the candidate of law and order? Are these secret police forces hired mercenaries? What gives the President the right to hire a secret police force? Why didn’t these secret police forces leave when asked to do so? These questions and more raise grave concerns. Such actions by a President and the federal government seems to be a gross abuse of Presidential power in a federal democracy such as the United States. This intervention caused peaceful protests, by about two hundred people, into protests with thousands of people that sometimes turned violent.
All this is not to say there are not times when a President and the federal government should step in to help when requested. That is how federalism is supposed to work. There is a reason why we have a federal type of democracy. It is because our Founding Fathers wanted states to have their Inalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness without an all-powerful federal government trampling on them. Unfortunately, in this case, it appears Oregon’s Inalienable Rights have been abused. So, what can we as Americans do to make sure this never happens again? How do we control this abuse of Presidential Power to ensure a U.S. President never becomes a dictator? Everyone needs to keep in mind this is America and the rights of citizens have been given to us in a Constitution and Bill of Rights. In addition, a lot of people have sacrificed their lives in order for us to have a free country that prides itself on the rule of law.
We need reform now to modernize our federal government. This is one area we must address in the near future before it is too late! What do you think?
“Oregon Governor Brown Interview about Federal Forces in Portland Transcript July 20.” Rev. Web. July 20, 2020.
Riski, Tess. “Mayor Ted Wheeler Calls on Federal Forces to Leave Portland: “We Do Not Need or Want their Help.” Willamette Week. Web. July 14, 2020.