"Where is the money supporting these radicals coming from? . . . It appears likely that at least some of the asserted violence and anarchy is in fact instigated by agents provocateurs funded by our own secret police."
John K. Olson, U. S. Bankruptcy Judge (retired)
What is happening in Portland isn't right. But it isn't new, either.
In the 1960's the FBI spied on Martin Luther King and it set up the Black Panthers to be charged with gun crimes by supplying them with guns. My cousin tells me stories about his service in the Army in the early 1970's. His job was to file daily reports on Black protesters in Los Angeles, using sources infiltrated secretly into those groups.
Today's Justice Department is justifying using extra-legal steps in Portland. They assert that the two men they strong armed into unmarked vans then brought to an interrogation room were not actually arrests. The law is utterly clear here. They were detained, restrained, and put into custody. That is an arrest. They know it
They are arresting people for being in the presence of a protest, then requiring them to sign agreements not to attend further protests, as a condition of being released from a miserable holding cell. It is a right to assemble peaceably. They know those conditions of release will be deemed unconstitutional when, eventually, they get seen by a judge.
What is happening in Portland is unusual in how openly--proudly--Trump ignores both constitutional rights and long established norms. He is making a statement, that he will use political, police, and military power as he sees fit against people who oppose him. He did it to Jeff Sessions. He does it to protesters. He says he is doing it to China. There is a political market for this kind of talk and behavior; many people admire the strong man unencumbered by law and democratic norms. Republican voters seem to like it just now.
The investigations into Russian assistance given Trump's 2016 campaign created a mindset among Democrats that the FBI and CIA were generally good actors, free of improper political agendas to carry out secret extra-legal policies of the president. Moreover,Trump criticizes the FBI and CIA, which further solidifies them as people of integrity, who resisted Trump. Democrats may have been lulled to sleep and forgotten history. The Justice Department is led by Bill Barr, and the CIA and Defense intelligence forces are led by Trump appointees. Of course, it is political.
Trump needs an issue to turn around his campaign, and anarchy and violence in Portland appears to be his chosen vehicle. Why the continuing violence? A good question, most quickly answered by asking another one.
Who benefits? Trump thinks he does.
John Olson was a college classmate, then a lawyer, and then a bankruptcy judge. He has a perspective gained from history on what might be happening in Oregon's Portland. The idea that Trump might use the power of government secretly to undermine the credibility of opposition isn't preposterous. It is standard practice by governments that find themselves in trouble.
Guest Post by John K Olson
I view the sixty days into demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, from a small city on the other side of North America — the original Portland, on the shores of Casco Bay, Maine.
Narodnya Volya succeeded in assassinating Alexander II in March 1881, thereby bringing in extreme right-wing autocracy in the personage of his son, Alexander III. The two Narodnya Volya assassins (a third was waiting in the nearby) blew up the Tsar with dynamite.
The new regime of Alexander III immediately created a monstrous secret police, the Okhrana, which survived until the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. From the early days of the new regime, Narodnya Volya and other opposition groups — radical and moderate — were infiltrated by agents of the Okhrana, who acted as both informers and agents provocateurs. Thus, the most radical groups opposed to the regime were in fact funded by the tsarist secret police, who were simultaneously stirring up revolt, suppressing it, and in the finest of bureaucratic traditions, justifying increased budgets by “proving” that they were essential to the survival of the regime. Perhaps the ugliest of these provocations was Bloody or Red Sunday in January 1905, when unarmed demonstrators led by a supposedly-reformist priest, Father Georgy Gapon, who was actually an Okhrana agent, were fired on by the Imperial Guard as they marched toward the Winter Palace to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II. This triggered the 1905 Revolution, ultimately and brutally suppressed by the regime.
So what do we see now in the Northwest? Extreme radical folks seeking to subvert the legitimate efforts of Black Lives Matter to effect social and political change so as to impose their own version of radical change. We’re not talking about Universal Health Care or Reparations here.
Where is the money supporting these radicals coming from? Are they led by agents provocateurs? And if they succeed in provoking predictably violent, almost-certainly intended reactions from the Administration’s own secret police, the anti-democratic Customs and Border Patrol, who benefits? CBP’s stated goal is to become the “marine corps of the US federal law enforcement community” and it asserts that its agents are not required to adhere to the same constitutional restraints on the use of force as other law enforcers. “We are not cops,” said David Aguilar, formerly the head of CBP.
Assuming, of course, that the federal agents operating in Oregon without badges or identification are actually CBP agents, and not some private army cobbled together from the likes of the Blackwater “contractors” run by Betsy DeVos’s brother Eric Prince.
Trump is now threatening to send 75,000 CBP agents into US cities to tackle what he claims is an epidemic of violence and anarchy. But it appears likely that at least some of the asserted violence and anarchy is in fact instigated by agents provocateurs funded by our own secret police.
In this year of pandemic incompetence and economic disaster, this Administration can only succeed politically if the violence of this secret police can been seen as necessary to protect the Nation. And only One Man can do that, etc.
Trump himself knows nothing. Putin and William Barr know a lot. We are back to 1881.