(CNN)The strange and frightening images of unidentified military-looking men taking protesters off the streets of Portland, Oregon, and into unmarked vans may be headed to a city near you if that city is, as President Donald Trump declared Monday, run by “liberal Democrats.”
This is sketchy stuff. And it’s not a good look for a country that’s supposed to be an open society. And it’s particularly distressing that the President is openly threatening cities based on the political affiliations of their leaders.
The teams of masked authorities seen in Portland dressed up for war like special forces apparently belong to the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection Unit.
They’re trained for drug missions, but with Trump demanding “law and order” and disagreeing with local authorities, they’ve been dispatched to American streets.
Speaking Monday at the White House, Trump suggested more federal agents will soon be headed to more American cities.
What sort of federal presence will this be?
Responding to a question about a report that said he will send federal troops to certain cities, Trump said “well it depends on what your definition of troops is. We’re sending law enforcement.”
“We’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore and all of these, Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats,” Trump said.
If he follows through with this threat, it’s not yet clear what kind of agents would be dispatched.
So let’s focus on Portland example from over the weekend.
The fact that DHS would deploy its own warriors into American streets without much discussion and without a clear mandate (they’re vaguely supposed to be protecting federal buildings?) is dark-of-night dystopian stuff.
Meanwhile, the militarized response has led to more violent levels of protest in Portland, where racial justice and anti-police brutality demonstrations have lasted more than 50 days. A police association office was set on fire Saturday.
The atmosphere has not been helped by the efforts of federal agents, according to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who called the administration’s actions “abhorrent.”