It is a feature of despotic societies for the government to use unidentified paramilitary forces in unmarked vehicles to seize opposition people and protestors off the streets and take them to secret locations for questioning. Very often these people were killed and their bodies never recovered. These kinds of things were notorious in many Latin American dictatorships and around the world (Sri Lanka was another example where such squads operated with impunity during the civil war and the insurrection) and the calls by mothers to return the ‘disappeared’ became rallying cries.
Yesterday’s revelations of what is going on in Portland, Oregon have disturbing similarities to those events.
The US Attorney for the Oregon District on Friday requested an investigation into masked, camouflaged federal authorities without identification badges who are arresting protesters in Portland.
The request is aimed specifically at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel who have been captured on various videos arresting protesters and putting them in unmarked SUVs.
Oregon’s governor and Portland’s mayor demanded the troops be withdrawn and a US senator joined them in condemning the arrests.
“Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters,” tweeted US Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat representing Oregon.
Merkley also tweeted one video of such an arrest showing two masked, camouflaged individuals with generic “police” patches, detain a person dressed in a black outfit and place them in an unmarked van before driving away.
Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters. These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable in America, and must end. pic.twitter.com/PE4YfZ9Vqd
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) July 16, 2020
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admitted to being one of the agencies involved in arresting protesters.
“Violent anarchists have organized events in Portland over the last several weeks with willful intent to damage and destroy federal property, as well as, injure federal officers and agents,” the agency said in a statement to CNN. “These criminal actions will not be tolerated.”
The problem of police brutality is bad enough when the people are identifiable. Anonymous security forces seizing people and taking them away to secret locations for questioning is a dangerous development.