President Trump is sending Federal agents into the streets of Portland and has threatened to send them to other cities with Democratic mayors and governors.
Confirmed reports from Portland tell of protesters being picked up in unmarked vehicles, taken to the Federal courthouse, and held without charges. Held without charges? In America?
That idea has become so offensive to people in Portland that even those who have not been participating in protests are coming out and taking a stand.
Take the Navy retired officer, Christopher J. David, who served as a Seabee. He has only participated in one other protest – a march for women’s rights in Washington D.C. in 1989. At the Portland protest, he wore a sweatshirt that had “Navy” printed large across the front and a backpack with his Navy patches and awards. His hat said “Navy.” He simply wanted to talk to the agents to ask if they felt the same way about the oaths they had taken as he did.
Instead, standing all of his six-foot-two inches tall with his hands by his side, he was beaten with batons. When he still asked questions, he was pepper-sprayed directly in the face. He stepped away, and finally turned to give the agents a sign of his disgust.
The former Naval officer and Seabee told protesters and reporters that the approaches being used by the Feds reminded him of the tactics of the Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Those times in Chile were scary, as dissidents disappeared from the streets. Sound familiar?
After simply trying to question troops, David ended up in the hospital with a broken hand that will need multiple pins and multiple surgeries. Broken hand and all, he left the protest in disgust, concerned about what was being done to his town.
Let’s look at another example of a non-protester heading into the streets because of the troops taking over Portland.
Mardy Widman is 79 years old and a grandmother. She didn’t participate in the protests because of fears of COVID-19. But Widman masked up, overcame her fear and ended up holding a sign that said, “Grammy says: Please feds, leave Portland.”
The President says he plans on sending more troops into cities led by Democratic mayors – New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore – even though in Detroit there have not been riots, but rather peaceful gatherings and protests for weeks now. In Baltimore, protest organizers have learned to avoid violence, and now conversations are being held on issues that led to the early violence.
So it seems that sending in Federal agents is just a political move to boost the President’s base. It makes you wonder if Austin could be next.
Sending in troops and taking people off the streets is simply scary. While David was talking about Pinochet in his explanation about why he didn’t think Feds should be used, I think back to the time I lived as an exchange student in the Philippines. This was during the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos dictatorship.
There was a night-time curfew. If you weren’t in your home by 10 p.m., you were in trouble. Serious trouble. If you were caught outside, you were hauled to jail.
But you could also be stopped, questioned, and “taken in” for no reason at all. And, as a “blondie,” as I was called there, I stuck out among all of the Filipinos with their black hair. I was picked out of a crowd several times and questioned. Luckily, I stuck with a group of local friends and answered quietly. I learned to keep my hair covered with hats and scarves while out.
I was never hauled to jail, but I was scared. Being a U.S citizen, I was not used to this kind of treatment, and it gave me the creeps.
Now I’m seeing the same kind of treatment to U.S. citizens on American soil.
Do I want the riots and protests to turn to violence? No. Do I want destruction of property and stores? No.
And I also do not want to see America turned into a place where you fear to voice your opinion.
That’s something I’ve already lived through once, and it’s no fun.
It’s a nightmare.
Publisher Cyndy Slovak-Barton lived in Manila while an exchange student through Youth For Understanding.