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July 24, 2020

Autocracy rising

Opinion

July 24, 2020

This is not only one of the worst times for American democracy, it is one of the most dangerous times.

The creeping – and creepy – autocracy that is the hallmark of President Donald Trump and his inept, ineffective administration of court loyalists has slithered further into upending America’s freedoms with the dispatch of federal officials onto the streets of Portland, Oregon., despite the repeated objections of federal, state and local leaders.

The purpose: to police and detain protesters who have staged daily demonstrations since the May 25 cop killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement to secure more racially just law enforcement.

This is the tactic of police states, a red line in any true democracy that should not be crossed. Every day something new, unexpected and usually distasteful from the White House. Every day something worse than the previous one.

Trump, the self-described law and order president, ran into stiff opposition when he wanted to federalize soldiers to “dominate” protesters exercising their constitutional right of peaceful assembly in cities around the country to demand criminal justice for minorities, particularly those who have been treated unfairly by white police. So he substituted troops for law enforcement officials from various federal agencies. He often seems to get what he wants.

Let’s take a step back for some perspective.

Novelist Hari Kunzru, in his review of the nonfiction book 'Surviving Autocracy' by New Yorker staffer Masha Gessen in the July 2 edition of The New York Review of Books, denounced Trump’s June 1 Rose Garden speech while explosions were heard as police and other authorities tried to scatter demonstrators from outside the White House with flash-bang rounds and other devices.

“It became apparent that the protest had been dispersed to allow Trump to finish his speech and walk over ‘recaptured ground’ to St. John’s Episcopal Church,” Kunzru wrote. “The cynical use of violence, to allow the president to stage a photo op, constitutes a new moral low in a presidency that has not exactly been short of them.

“The deployment of the US military against Americans exercising their First Amendment right to protest is a red line. If it is crossed with impunity, the transition to autocracy will be complete.”

That’s what’s been happening in Portland.

Federal police and agents dressed in camouflage military gear who gave the appearance of regular soldiers reportedly fired teargas and swept through the streets in minivans devoid of markings that were used to haul in protesters.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler characterized the paramilitary forces as Trump’s “personal army.” “This is part of a coordinated strategy out of Trump’s White House to use federal troops to bolster his sagging polling data and it is absolute abuse of federal law enforcement,” he said.

Excerpted from: 'Rising Autocracy'.

Counterpunch.org