It’s been sad, bewildering, and often infuriating trying to understand what’s happening on the streets of Portland, Oregon over the last week or so since Trump and his Acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf began sending unidentifiable federal agents to swoop up protesters in the city, often gathering them into unmarked rental vans and taking them to facilities they didn’t recognize to interrogate them.
Some would argue that the blame for this escalation partially belongs to Mayor Ted Wheeler, whose oversight of the police in his city has been wanting, to say the least. Known associates of Proud Boys and other white supremacist groups have been and are still employed by the Portland PD — an unfortunate byproduct of the city being so close to Vancouver, Washington, one of the nation’s hotspots for white nationalist activities.
But whether the city’s done a good job of overseeing the protests over the years and especially this year since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, nothing could have prepared residents for the invasion by armed, anonymous federal agents, who it took two days of occupation by to even find out they’d come from the US Marshals, Customs and Border Protection, and ICE.
Now that ragtag group of what are essentially federally-employed mercenaries, sent to blur the lines surrounding the First and Tenth Amendments, has been accused of something far worse than just grabbing protesters off the streets: They have now been accusing of violating the Geneva Conventions — specifically the agreements founded in 1949 that govern protections for the wounded and sick and protections for civilians in and around a war zone.
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) July 23, 2020
The video therein shows medical supplies brought by protesters after they’ve been coated in pepper spray by the agents and rendered unusable. And although Portland is not technically a “war zone,” the Geneva Conventions do protect non-combatants — and aside from that, it’s not necessarily a defense to say that rules that govern war shouldn’t apply to federal troops’ treatment of standard protesters who aren’t even armed.
Oh, the Department of Homeland Security would like you to think the protesters are armed. Just look what the Acting Deputy Secretary of DHS, Ken Cuccinelli tweeted on Wednesday:
Here is a shield and a couple of gas masks from a rioter arrested in Portland. Not a sign with a slogan that someone expressing their first amendment rights might carry, but preparations for violence. Peaceful protester? I don’t think so. pic.twitter.com/0Re1V129ge
— Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli (@HomelandKen) July 23, 2020
A shield is not a weapon unless you’re Captain America. And a gas mask is never a weapon. They’re not carrying signs alone because signs won’t protect them from tear gas, Ken.
But agents like these are no strangers to the cruelty of destroying supplies meant to help the weak and desperate: Border Patrol agents have been photographed gleefully demolishing jugs of water and stashed food for asylum seekers headed for the US border, knowing full well that to do so would mean children would die in the desert of thirst.
This is how they’re trained to operate, and Donald Trump is now telling Americans he plans to send them to even more cities.
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