Ask Wonkette: Is It LEGAL To Disappear People Off American Streets, Or The OPPOSITE Of That?
The city of Portland, Oregon, is under assault from its own federal government.
People are being detained by unidentifiable alleged law enforcement officers, blindfolded, thrown into unmarked vehicles, and detained without even knowing where they are or who is holding them. This is not a dystopian thriller — it's America in 2020.
Since at least July 10, federal officers from the Department of Homeland Security have been terrorizing Black Lives Matter protesters. Now, alleged federal officers wearing military fatigues have been rounding up Portlanders and throwing them into unmarked vans. Because apparently, forcibly disappearing people is something we do now.
Usually, the Department of Homeland Security props up white supremacy by acting as immigration Nazis. Now, it's also brutally attacking journalists, peaceful protesters, and apparently anyone who happens to be in downtown Portland in the middle of the night.
Last weekend, federal officers shot peaceful protester Donavan LaBella in the face with an allegedly "less lethal" weapon. His skull was fractured and he had to undergo reconstructive surgery.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown have both asked the feds to GTFO. These requests have been ignored by both Trump and his chief DHS lackey, Chad Wolf.
Can Trump do this?!
Well, he shouldn't be able to.
Forced disappearances are, of course, not supposed to be a thing here in the US of A, where we pretend to care about things like the rule of law. It's also illegal, fascist bullshit. You see, we have a constitution. And it requires crazy things like "free speech," "due process," "probable cause," and "equal protection under the law." All of these things mean you can't just arrest, disappear, or shoot at people who are peacefully protesting.
Protesting injustice is a celebrated exercise of First Amendment rights — the government isn't allowed to stop protests just because it doesn't like them. The government also can't search, detain, or arrest people for no reason. The Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures says that's a no-no. And, just for posterity, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments' guarantees of due process mean that the government isn't allowed to just disappear people. THESE ARE THINGS WE SHOULD ALL BE ABLE TO AGREE ARE GOOD.
Under US law, generally law enforcement needs a warrant and probable cause of a crime to arrest a person. But in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments people in Portland are being detained and arrested for no reason other than being outside while there are protests happening.
Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center, called the arrests "terrifying," saying
It's like stop and frisk meets Guantanamo Bay[.] You have laws regarding probable cause that can lead to arrests[.] It sounds more like abduction. It sounds like they're kidnapping people off the streets.
In fact, under both US and international law, what's happening in Portland is what those of us educated in the law call "fascist fucking bullshit." Enforced disappearances are a crime against humanity, codified in such documents as the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, and the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
This is in addition to the fact that using chemical weapons like teargas would be a fucking war crime if our government did it abroad instead of against its own citizens.
The federal officers deployed to Portland aren't your everyday DHS stooges, either. They include members of BORTAC and the US Marshals Special Operations Group. According to the AP,
Among the federal forces deployed in Portland are members of an elite Border Patrol tactical team, a special operations unit that is based on the U.S.-Mexico border and has been deployed overseas, including to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Among the BORTAC members patrolling the streets of Portland are snipers.
Yeah, you read that right. There are government-sponsored snipers in Portland. Training their weapons at protesters. Who are protesting police brutality.
What a world.
Litigation over the feds' fuckery is already happening in federal court. Local officers in Portland are under a court order preventing them from using violent measures like tear gas unless lives are in danger. The feds don't think it applies to them, but yesterday, lawyers for protesters argued in court that does.
"It's a question of aiding and abetting," Juan Chavez, attorney in the case and director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center's Civil Rights Project told Courthouse News. "You see this in domestic violence restraining orders. You can't get a third person to continue the harassment that was restrained in an order. If the evidence shows that [the Portland Police Bureau] was directing the federal police to fire tear gas into a crowd and it's not in accordance with Oregon law, then it's a violation."
And protesters aren't the only people under threat. The ACLU had to file a class action suit on behalf of journalists and legal observers had to file a class action suit to get Portland police to stop arresting them simply for documenting police violence at the protests against police brutality. Now, they are adding the federal officers terrorizing their streets to their list of defendants.
"It's a logical relationship," Athul Acharya, attorney for the journalists said Thursday. "Claims against city and the federal police involve both actors doing the same thing, at the same time and working together on the same nights while using the same tactics, like tear gas and batons. Federal police are working in the PPB command center and plaintiffs in the case saw federal agents swarm out of the Justice Center, which is PPB's headquarters."
Judge Michael Simon ruled today that the federal defendants could be added to the suit, opening the door for the ACLU to file a motion for a temporary restraining order against them for all of this authoritarian garbage.
It's all fucked
People on the ground in Portland often had no idea whether these military-looking men were federal officers at all. Terroristic militias love to do things like cosplay as soldiers and go after protesters — and these days, the federal government is looking more and more like a white supremacist militia.
And where are all of the Oregonian "sovereign citizen" freedom fighters who scream — while holding assault weapons and wearing fatigues — they will gladly lay down their lives to protect freedom? I know that I, for one, am entirely shocked that the Ammon Bundys of the world haven't made a peep about all of the actual fascism going down on American streets.
While prominent people whine in Harper's about "illiberal cancel culture" because they got called out for their bigotry, we have an actual free speech crisis on our hands. And it has nothing to do with JK Rowling being a transphobe.
Remember: this is not normal, it is not okay, and it must be stopped.
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