Federal Judges Okay Police State
In keeping with the overall themes of 2020, a lot happened last night. Most of it bad.
Trump and Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf have decided to use Customs and Border Protection agents from the Department of Homeland Security as their personal militia. Portland and Seattle now have fascist goons patrolling the streets and disappearing people in the name of "protecting federal property" from, I guess, "violent" graffiti.
And now, two conservative judges appointed by George W. Bush have stepped in to ensure that our federal courts will not step in or do anything to stop Trump and Acting Chad's fascist fever dream fantasies.
We now take you to the Pacific Northwest.
Portland is a shitshow
So late last week, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit, seeking to make the feds follow the Constitution and not disappear people without identifying themselves.
Last night, US District Judge Michael Mosman, a W appointee and former prosecutor, ruled in Rosenblum v. John Does 1-10 that the feds just hadn't disappeared enough people for the court step in. I guess Trump's SS officers get a few freebies first?
In his order, Mosman seems nonplussed by the fascist police state's antics, writing that
One of the most difficult tasks for law enforcement in a free country like ours is to support robust protests while still maintaining order through lawful methods. This is even more challenging when the subject of the protests concerns police tactics. It is not unusual, following major protests, for some of the people involved to allege that the police crossed a line—a constitutional line—in the course of their interactions. It is also common for these interactions to result in lawsuits, with protesters contending the police violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights and seeking redress by money damages and injunctive relief. There is a well-established body of law paving the way for such lawsuits to move forward in federal court.
And the fact that cops frequently violate the constitutional rights of protesters is, I guess, fine? Because people can sue for damages after being kidnapped, injured, or worse, for exercising their First Amendment rights.
Writing that the AG's request to make officers identify themselves as officers was "a linguistic Maginot line, of no use in the real world[,]" Mosman stands up for the police state at every turn.
Amazingly, the judge went further than denying the motion for a temporary restraining order, finding that the Oregon Attorney General -- the highest law enforcement officer in the state -- had no standing to bring a case on behalf of her constituents, whose constitutional rights are being violated night after night.
The court denied AG Rosenblum's very reasonable requests to (1) make the feds identify themselves and who they work for before detaining or arresting people; (2) explain why they are detaining or arresting someone at the time of the seizure; and (3) not arrest people without probable cause.
Gods forbid we make Trump and Acting Chad's Getsapo follow silly things like the "Constitution." Even assuming that the arrests were unconstitutional, Judge Mosman was like,"Eh,no biggie, the state only showed the federal goons violating TWO people's constitutional rights." Because apparently we should just wait for our country to become a full-blown fucking police state before our federal courts do anything to stop it.
The good judge also pooh-poohed the state's worries that some of Oregon's white supremacist militias might follow the secret police's lead and kidnap protesters, implying that it did not "ma[ke] sense[,]" writing that
the idea that seizures by law enforcement will lead to kidnappings by private parties is a bridge too far.
And as for the fact that protesters should not be expected to submit to unidentified thugs? Also simply preposterous to the old, white, conservative, former US Attorney.
I put in a similar category the State's asserted interest in preventing a spate of cases in which protesters mistakenly think the federal agents who are seizing them are actually counter-protest kidnappers. Again, there is no evidence to support such an assertion. The State has not pointed to any instance in which a protester was subjected to state violence because she believed she was resisting a kidnapping.
And Judge Mosman doesn't stop there, oh no. He also goes out of his way to place a footnote at the end of the order to make it perfectly clear that he's more upset by the people resisting the police state than the police state itself.
In its briefing and at oral argument, the State described what has happened here in Portland as "disappearance squads" and "disappearing" people.[...] This is apparently a reference to "the Disappeared," i.e., the 30,000 people who were tortured and murdered by the Argentine military junta 40 years ago. Even taking every word of the State's arguments and evidence at face value, this seems out of proportion.
So ... yeah. It's all bad.
The only good thing to come out of all of this absolute fucking insanity is witnessing the incredible protesters standing against fascism. In addition to the awesome wall of moms, Portland now also has a wall of dads and a wall of vets. Last night, the wall of vets took the front line, followed by the dads, the moms, and the rest of the protesters.
Another huge crowd tonight in Portland, including a new "wall" on the front lines: a Wall of Vets. Here's a look a… https://t.co/2TApQJjnh8— Mike Baker (@Mike Baker)1595652142.0
At least there's that?
Meanwhile, in Seattle ...
Last month, after police used chemical weapons to break up Black Lives Matter protests, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Ordinance 126102, banning the use of "crowd control weapons," including "kinetic impact projectiles, chemical irritants, acoustic weapons, directed energy weapons, water cannons, disorientation devices, ultrasonic cannons, or any other device that is designed to be used on multiple individuals for crowd control and is designed to cause pain or discomfort."
At the last minute, after the Seattle Police Department's attempt to block the law failed, the DOJ filed its own suit against the ordinance. And late last night, US District Judge James Robart -- also appointed by W -- granted a temporary restraining order.
The DOJ actually argued that the ordinance "could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons." Because we live in a fresh hell where letting people protest police brutality against Black people is apparently not an option.
For reasons passing understanding, Judge Robart simply accepted at face value the idea that police need to use violence against protesters, allowing the feds to use crowd control and chemical weapons against their own people.
Judge Robart has these cases because he oversees a consent decree Obama's Department of Justice entered into with the Seattle Police Department due to SPD's systemic use of excessive force and discrimination against people of color. And, I guess because he okayed pepper balls before, they're okay to use now?
"I urge you all to use it as an occasion to try to find out where it is we are and where it is we're going," Robart said. "I can't tell you today if blast balls are a good idea or a bad idea, but I know that sometime a long time ago I approved them."
Thankfully, a ruling in another case limiting the Seattle Police Department's use of crowd control weapons remains in effect. In a case brought by protesters, US District Judge Richard Jones (yet another W appointee), issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting SPD from using "from using pepper spray, tear gas, foam-tipped projectiles or any other force against peaceful protesters." Judge Jones found that SPD had used "weapons disproportionately and without provocation" on peaceful protesters and that "SPD's use of less-lethal, crowd control weapons have surely chilled speech."
As noted by the Seattle Times,
Judge Jones noted that the "city and nation are at a crisis level" over not just the death of George Floyd, but over "generational claims of racism and police brutality." He said it is clear that the protests that have rocked America "will be relentless until change and police reform is made" and that the protests will continue. He also wrote that the protesters need the protection of the federal court.
"What brings the parties to this Court today are peaceful protesters desiring to engage in their rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the freedom of assembly without fear of retaliation or disruption by Seattle police officers' use of tear gas, pepper spray, flash bang devices, or foam-tipped bullets," the judge wrote.
Under the order, police are banned from using crowd control weapons against peaceful protesters or as crowd control but can use them as
reasonable, proportional, and targeted action to protect against a specific imminent threat of physical harm … or to respond to specific acts of violence or destruction of property.
And tear gas is specifically singled out, to be used only if
efforts to subdue a threat by using alternative crowd measures, including pepper spray … have been exhausted and are ineffective," or if SPD Chief Carmen Best determines it's the only "reasonable alternative available."
Chief Best is only permitted to approve pepper spray for "limited and targeted use." Tear gas is
"not be deployed indiscriminately into a crowd," and is instead required to be "targeted at the specific imminent threat of physical harm."
The fact that any of this has to be litigated at all is disgusting.
Trump's Nazis are invading American cities to shut down political speech. And our federal courts are letting them.
It turns out democracy doesn't die in darkness; it dies right out in the open.
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