Trump Uses Border Patrol to Implement Police State

In the early morning hours of July 15, Mark Pettibone was walking home from a Black Lives Matter protest in Portland when unidentified federal agents grabbed him.

“Without warning, men in green military fatigues adorned with generic ‘police’ patches jumped out of an unmarked minivan and approached me,” Pettibone, twenty-nine, states in an affidavit. “I did not know whether the men were police or far-right extremists, who, in my experience, frequently don military-like outfits and harass left-leaning protesters in Portland.”

“No one told me why I had been detained,” says Pettibone, who tells of being taken—without explanation—to a holding cell in Portland’s federal courthouse. After refusing to waive his Miranda rights, he was released without any charges filed against him.The affidavit is part of a lawsuit recently brought against the Customs and Border Protection component of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as two other federal agencies, by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. It alleges that these agencies are violating the constitutional rights of protesters in Portland.

Rosenblum’s lawsuit seeks a restraining order against the kind of strong-arm tactics  experienced by Pettibone and others. Such tactics, the lawsuit charges, inhibit “the First Amendment right of Oregonians to peacefully protest racial inequality.”

Trump’s deployment in early July of what amounts to a federal strike force came after weeks of protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Trump’s rapid deployment team sent to Portland includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents—the foot soldiers in the President’s war against immigrants.

“ICE and Customs and Border Protection have been wreaking havoc on people in the United States since almost the day Trump was inaugurated,” Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, tells The Progressive.

Before the federal agents were dispatched, the abusive practices of Portland police were the subject of protests and concern. But a class-action lawsuit resulted in a restraining order and a subsequent agreement in June to curb the use of tear gas and other weaponry, including police projectiles.

Arrival of the federal agents brought a new and more vicious violence to Portland. 

“The intent is to intimidate, to silence, and try to quell these protesters,” says J. Ashlee Albies, a Portland civil rights lawyer who has represented activists in the class-action lawsuit. “People are protesting police violence and are met with police violence.”

The federal agents are purportedly protecting federal property, but they have not confined their presence to the few areas in Portland where federal property exists.

These agents, says Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, “rush out and begin firing gas canisters and sometimes begin pushing the crowd. And, of course, these are armed people. They all have their batons out.”

The agents’ heavy-handed response is having its intended effect of inflaming tensions. “The more violent the federal agents have become, the bigger the turnout at the protests,” says Carson.

This outpouring includes the Wall of Moms—women locking arms in front of the agents, serving as a buffer between them and protesters.

The deployment of CBP, which includes agents from the Border Patrol’s BORTAC tactical unit, and ICE to Portland is a scary reminder how much Homeland Security’s bloated bureaucracy has grown since it was created in 2002, in the aftermath of 9/11.

Both CBP’s and ICE’s annual budgets have almost tripled in recent years. The Migration Policy Institute found that from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2020, CBP’s budget mushroomed from $6.3 billion to $17.4 billion, while ICE’s budget grew from $3.1 billion to $8.4 billion.

As local police departments have become more militarized, so too have CBP and ICE, with funding going toward such items as drones, enforcement aircraft, mobile video surveillance, and intelligence activities…

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James Goodman