Time is short so I’ll have just a few points to make this afternoon on protecting free speech.
First, as a Senator from Oregon and a Portlander myself, I want to begin by asking who Americans honestly believe is the real threat to our Constitutional rights.
Is it the Oregonians who’ve gathered together in overwhelmingly peaceful protests for racial justice since the murder of George Floyd?
Or is it the heavily armed secret police snatching Portlanders off the streets into unmarked vans and interrogating them without justification or charges?
Is it the “Wall of Moms,” the courageous women like my friend Sharon Meieran, an ER doc and a county commissioner, who’ve put themselves in harm’s way to protect their neighbors?
Or is it the unidentifiable paramilitary forces who, without provocation, batoned and tear-gassed those moms and their fellow protesters?
Is it the peacefully gathered Portlanders who raised their hands in the air and sang the words “hands up, please don’t shoot” to the tune of a lullaby?
Or is it the duplicitous president who called them “professional anarchists … professional agitators … people who hate our country” and called my hometown a “beehive of terrorists”?
This argument that Americans exercising their right to peaceful protest are anarchists, terrorists and agitators is bad-faith nonsense. Violent conflict in Portland was down before Trump got involved. Portlanders are standing up for justice. I’ve seen Black Lives Matter activists in Portland and in other cities trying their hardest to prevent acts of vandalism, because it distracts from their calls for justice and equality.
So why make these baseless, conspiratorial accusations and send in secret police?
Donald Trump sent his secret police to Portland to create images of chaos for his own political gain – to air in campaign ads and to provide a basis for bad-faith hearings like this one. Fortunately, in the days since federal forces backed off, the chaos has largely stopped in Portland. But the president is still getting the scenes of violence he wanted, and he’s threatening further escalation in Portland and elsewhere.
This nonsense about leftist anarchy also papers over the murders and vandalism committed by far-right domestic terrorists. Those murders have been on the rise. Far-right criminals have also been caught committing acts of vandalism at the scenes of Black Lives Matter protests.
This baseless talk about leftist anarchy also erases the work being done by all those who’ve stood up in peaceful protest to declare that Black Lives Matter. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, millions and millions of Americans – all ages, all ethnicities, all backgrounds – participated in protests and called for an end to inequality and violence against Black Americans. All this talk about leftist anarchy is just a big deflection from that nationwide call for justice.
Bottom line, I can tell you that Portlanders did not feel “protected” by Donald Trump’s secret police. So I agree there’s a serious danger to Americans’ Constitutional rights at this moment in history. Clearly It’s caused by the president and his enablers, who are calling peaceful protesters anarchists and terrorists and sending paramilitary forces into America’s cities.
A web version of this release is here.