September 27, 2020

The Federal Crackdown on Portland Protesters

To the Editor:

Re “To City’s Alarm, Federal Officers Police Portland” (front page, July 18):

I live in Portland, Ore. I am 68 years old, a retired psychologist, a mildly left-of-center boomer. I want to report that Portland is not at all convulsed by a “violent mob” of anarchists, as the acting homeland security secretary, Chad F. Wolf, claims, or anything close.

A small number of protesters, generally far fewer than 100, gather each evening to protest peacefully. A few wrongheaded individuals paint graffiti or throw rocks, and that is certainly not OK. But two blocks away, in any direction, things are completely normal. In fact, I had not watched the news for a few days, and I thought the protests had stopped.

There is absolutely no justification for the intrusion of federal troops to engage in tactics like kidnapping people off the streets in unmarked cars, as was done under the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. This is clearly a case of President Trump wanting to create drama for his right-wing base, ginning up a state of anarchy that does not exist, so he can look tough to his base, and so he can try to scare people into thinking there is some kind of threat to America posed by people who disagree with him and his party.

Mark Tilson
Portland, Ore.

To the Editor:

Re “Federal Officers in Portland Lack Proper Training” (news article, July 19):

In your coverage of the federal response to the protests in Portland, we learn that the paramilitary forces being used against protesters were from Homeland Security and not trained or equipped for the job they were sent to do. This may partly explain why protesters were placed in unmarked vans by unidentified individuals.

Some protesters may have broken laws, but if so it is up to the local authorities to deal with the lawbreakers, and ask for federal assistance only if they feel that it is required. In this case, the deployment was initiated by the president, who unilaterally decided that local authorities couldn’t handle the situation. Both the governor and the mayor opposed the deployment of federal troops and asked to have them removed. Whatever happened to Republican support for states’ rights, let alone First Amendment rights?

If the president is able to impose paramilitary troops on states without the approval of state officials, what will happen if he decides to take similar action after losing the election and declaring it “rigged”?

Ron Langer
Greenwood Village, Colo.

To the Editor:

As a minister in the United Church of Christ and a resident of Portland, I demand that President Trump remove federal forces immediately from our city. Kidnapping citizens without cause is fascism. I urge Portlanders to resist this assault on democracy with nonviolence. What is occurring in Portland today could happen in every American city unless Mr. Trump is stopped. Democracy is at stake.

(Rev.) Chuck Currie
Forest Grove, Ore.
The writer is university chaplain and director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality at Pacific University.