In recent interviews with The Guardian, Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said America is “staring down the barrel of martial law.” Wyden warned that President Donald Trump’s crackdown on the protests in Portland signals the administration’s authoritarian tactics.
Fellow Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley has also spoken out about the federal presence in Portland and other cities, calling it an “all-out assault in military-style fashion.” Independent federal watchdogs have launched investigations into the use of force by federal authorities as well as looking into unidentified agents accused of grabbing protestors off the streets and shoving them into unmarked vans.
The president isn’t backing down though, announcing instead a planned surge of federal law enforcement in major American cities. In a statement, Wyden called out against violent tactics and the use of paramilitary forces against peaceful demonstrators.
Military control of government was last imposed in the US in 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In current circumstances, Wyden said it would entail “trashing the constitution and trashing people’s individual rights.”
Wyden also recalled a conversation with a legal adviser for the head of national intelligence, in which he asked for the constitutional justification for what the Trump administration is doing in Portland. He said the only response he received was “best wishes” for his constituents.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany began a briefing on Friday with a selectively edited video depicting protests, flames, graffiti, and chaos in Portland. Trump has also falsely accused presidential opponent Joe Biden of pledging to defund the police using a selectively edited clip of an interview in a campaign advertisement.
The Portland federal deployment, Operation Diligent Valor, involves 114 officers from homeland security and the US Marshals Service, according to the Guardian. Critics say the federal presence has only fueled violence at protests against policy brutality and systemic racism.
Merkley told The Guardian the federal forces are attacking peaceful protestors in Portland. He believes that previous political targets such as the Islamic State and undocumented migrants are losing their potency, leading Trump to focus on African Americans in inner cities as his latest scapegoats. Merkley also accused Trump of an “intense authoritarian streak,” citing the president’s support for strongmen and dictators abroad.
“It’s very clear what the president is trying to do is incite violence and then display that violence in campaign ads,” Merkley said. “This is just an absolute assault on people’s civil rights to speak and to assemble.”
On Friday the United Nations warned against the use of excessive force in response to demonstrators and media.
By Cody Mann