Portland is now ground zero in America’s culture war

by Bob Barr*

For years there has been developing a deep clash in our country between generations, political parties and personalities. This many-faceted conflict broke to the surface with the election of Donald Trump four years ago, and has remained part of virtually every major public policy issue since Trump’s first day in office. It now has erupted into full violence.

Perhaps nowhere in the country is the culture clash more starkly displayed than in Portland, Oregon; not in Minneapolis, not in New York City and not even in Washington, DC. Portland has become ground zero where the battle for the very heart of America’s culture is being played out.
    Portland has long been known as a city of high-brow culture and far-left politics. For decades, it was a magnet for liberals of all stripes and ages; but in the past few years it has attracted a far more sinister and dangerous element – Antifa. Portland’s soft, left-wing political establishment, led since January 2017 by pacifist Mayor Ted Wheeler, provides a perfect breeding ground for violent protesters.
    Since joining forces in late May, Antifa and Black Lives Matter have engaged in nightly demonstrations, vandalism, and arson, meeting little resistance from the city. In recent days, however, Wheeler’s strategy of “soft policing” (backed by Oregon’s equally liberal Governor Kate Brown) has run into resistance.
    President Trump has thrown down the gauntlet in Portland, declaring that while the state’s and the city’s political leaders may not care if vandals desecrate federal buildings and facilities and endanger federal employees in Portland, he does. Reflecting an executive order he signed in late June directing federal law enforcement to proactively protect federal buildings, structures and personnel against vandals and other violent activists, and to actually prosecute those who perpetrate such acts, Trump recently ordered federal law enforcement personnel into Portland to do just that.
    Judging by the howls emanating from Portland City Hall and from the state capitol in Eugene, one might conclude that the President had sent Patton’s Third Army into the city. Both Wheeler and Brown cried that Trump had sent masses of “secret police” into Portland to indiscriminately grab peaceful protestors off the streets and whisk them off to secret locations (perhaps to be waterboarded).
    In fact, there has been nothing secret about the Administration’s actions; far from it. The President and the acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf have made clear in numerous public pronouncements their commitment to protect federal facilities and personnel in Portland and other cities. Moreover, ubiquitous TV cameras and cell phone recordings would make clandestine police actions next to impossible at any rate.
    Wheeler continues to view the goings on in the city he nominally leads through the same rose-tinted glasses that throughout his tenure has allowed Antifa thugs to physically attack conservative journalists, stop traffic on major highways, and engage in acts of arson and vandalism largely at will. Not surprisingly, Trump does not view violent protests with the same degree of compassion as does the mayor, particularly when directed at federal properties and personnel.
    Wheeler’s timidity in dealing with violent protestors truly has blinded him to reality. For example, even as Antifa and Black Lives Matters protestors last weekend were attacking Portland Police buildings as well as the federal courthouse in the city, Wheeler was on TV complaining that it was only the presence of federal law enforcement that caused any problem.
    Despite hyped-up claims by Mayor Wheeler, Governor Brown, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and now House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY), that federal law enforcement in Portland have been engaging in wantonly unconstitutional actions protecting federal facilities and personnel from violence, President Trump is unlikely to back down; nor should he.
    As President, Mr. Trump has an absolute responsibility to protect federal facilities and personnel whenever and wherever they are threatened, whether at home or abroad. That this no longer is considered by the Democrat Party as a legitimate underpinning of civil society, illustrates the depth of the chasm into which we are sliding.

Source: The Daily Caller from 20 July 2020

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ef. The incidents in Portland, as described in Bob Barr’s article, are not an isolated case: on 6 August, the US correspondent of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” reported that the months of protests by the “Black Lives Matter” movement repeatedly demanded that resources be withdrawn from the fundamentally racist and therefore unreformable police force. The consequence of this wave of protests was that the police forces held back in cases of doubt, possibly also because they were afraid of the accusation of “racial profiling”. As the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” writes, the US Secretary of Justice William Barr had made the following statement in Congress:  “When a community turns on and pillories its own police, officers naturally become more risk averse and crime rates soar. Unfortunately, we are seeing that now in many of our major cities.” According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of homicides has risen by double digits since the beginning of the year in 36 of the 50 largest cities in the US. Portland is an example of other American cities where, according to Bob Barr, the “battle for the very heart of America’s culture” is being fought. Against this backdrop, the government’s approach of instructing federal law enforcement officials in Portland to proactively protect and prosecute federal buildings, structures, and personnel becomes at least understandable. Even though many of the mainstream media in our latitudes refuse to acknowledge this.    •

*  Bob Barr (twitter.com/bobbarr) represented U.S. state Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He won the Libertarian Party‘s presidential nomination in 2008 and currently serves as president and CEO of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation.

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