- GOP Sen. Tom Cotton on Monday defended the deployment of undercover federal agents in Portland by comparing protesters in the city to the Confederacy.
- “It’s no more a violation of the prerogatives of Oregon as a state than trying to defend Fort Sumter was from insurrectionists in 1861,” Cotton said of the presence of federal officers in Oregon.
- Federal agents have reportedly been abruptly arresting peaceful protesters without explanation while driving around downtown Portland in unmarked vehicles.
- The governor of Oregon and the mayor of Portland have both called on the Trump administration to withdraw the federal officers, who are with the US Marshals Service and an elite US Customs and Border Protection unit.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Monday compared anti-racism demonstrators in Portland to the Confederacy as he defended the controversial presence of federal agents in the Oregon city.
During a conversation with Reihan Salam, the president of the conservative Manhattan Institute, Cotton was asked whether the presence of undercover Homeland Security agents in Portland is a violation of state’s rights.
Cotton rejected the notion it violates Oregon’s rights as a state, adding, “It’s no more a violation of the prerogatives of Oregon as a state than trying to defend Fort Sumter was from insurrectionists in 1861.”
The first military engagement in the American Civil War took place at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The Confederacy fired the first shots after federal troops refused to surrender the fort, sparking the bloodiest conflict in US history. In short, Cotton essentially just equated anti-racism protesters to the racist, traitorous army that catalyzed the Civil War.
The federal government has a “right” and “duty” to defend “all federal property,” Cotton went on to say.
Cotton has repeatedly condoned deploying the US military to crackdown on protesters in cities across the country, likening demonstrators to anarchists and terrorists.
“If local politicians will not do their most basic job to protect our citizens, let’s see how these anarchists respond when the 101st Airborne is on the other side of the street,” Cotton said on Fox News in June.
Federal agents from the US Marshals Service and an elite US Customs and Border Protection unit have controversially been deployed in Portland by the Trump administration.
The federal officers have reportedly detained peaceful protesters abruptly and without explanation while driving around downtown Portland in unmarked vehicles.
The governor of Oregon and the mayor of Portland have both decried these tactics, warning that the presence of the federal agents has only exacerbated tensions. The governor and mayor have called on President Donald Trump to remove the agents from the city, but he’s shown no signs of backing down and appears poised to send federal officers into other major US cities.
“The Trump administration needs to stop playing politics with people’s lives,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, told NPR’s Michel Martin. “We don’t have a secret police in this country. This is not a dictatorship. And Trump needs to get his officers off the streets.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, also a Democrat, on Sunday told CNN the “tactics that the Trump administration are using on the streets of Portland are abhorrent.”
“People are being literally scooped off the street into unmarked vans, rental cars, apparently. They are being denied probable cause,” Wheeler said. “And they are denied due process. They don’t even know who’s pulling them into the vans. The people aren’t identifying themselves. And, as far as I can see, this is completely unconstitutional.”
“Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism,” Wheeler said of the federal agents in his city. “And it’s not helping the situation at all. They’re not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave.”
The ACLU and the attorney general of Oregon have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration in relation to the presence of federal agents in Portland and the tactics they’ve employed against protesters.
Meanwhile, Trump has been accused by congressional Democrats of using “secret police” on US citizens and behaving like an authoritarian.
There have been ongoing protest across the US over the summer against police brutality and racism. Portland has seen some of the most sustained demonstrations, which have largely been peaceful.
Protesters in Portland were tear-gassed by law enforcement outside of a federal courthouse on Sunday after some demonstrators tore down fencing outside of the building.
Trump and his GOP allies have painted Portland as a city consumed by chaos, but local leaders have fervently disputed that notion and reporting from local media has portrayed the unrest as limited to a certain section of the city.