When Trump threatened governors and mayors last month in a Rose Garden speech before using federal officers to attack demonstrators in Lafayette Park, it wasn’t merely a disturbing moment of fascist spectacle. It announced a nationwide campaign of state violence and repression. Acting as a kind of Praetorian Guard (or perhaps Schutzstaffel), Department of Homeland Security agents have expanded their terror from immigrant communities to the Black Lives Matter movement.
After Trump’s June 26 executive order to protect national monuments, the administration began deploying militarized DHS agents to the streets of Portland, Seattle and Washington DC. According to reports over the last few days they have been regularly assaulting peaceful demonstrators.
Another story a few days ago had this quote from a senior Homeland Security official who told the Associated Press: “Once we surged federal law enforcement officers to Portland, the agitators quickly got the message.”
Last night in Portland these agents shot Donavan LaBella in the head with an impact munition, knocking him to the ground where he lay unconscious and bleeding (the video is really disturbing, so be warned) until other protesters carried him off.
Desensitizing the public via the state-ordered dehumanization and brutalization of marginalized groups has allowed this administration to use these same forces to attack members of the public more broadly. This is textbook fascism.
Worse, now that this bridge has been crossed, it is unlikely that future presidents won’t avail themselves of this new role for DHS, regardless of party. As presidents as recently as Obama have shown, they rarely willingly give up powers that prior incumbents have taken for the office.