use your words

You’ve probably seen the video. If not, I’ve included it below. A young man dressed in black, wearing a helmet, is seized by a pair of anonymous armed men dressed in camouflaged tactical gear, loaded into a civilian rental van, and driven away. On the surface, it looks like some sort of paramilitary abduction.

According to the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security (and here’s another thing (with Comrade Trump in office, there’s always another thing) we’ve had an ‘acting’ DHS secretary since April 10, 2019; in his three and a half years as POTUS, Trump has had two confirmed DHS secretaries and three ‘acting’ secretaries) those uniformed men were federal officers employed by US Border Patrol. The official explanation for the events in the video is that the young man “was in a crowd in an area in which an individual was aiming a laser at the eyes of officers.”

Got that? They admit this kid wasn’t actually pointing a laser at anybody; he was just in the area in which somebody was pointing a laser at officers. That’s NOT probable cause to detain somebody. The law is pretty clear about this; you can’t arrest/detain somebody without probable cause.

The official explanation for putting this kid in a van and driving him away is that it was done for safety reasons. “[A]s they approached him they noticed that coming in their direction were other demonstrators who were coming to see what was going on and they wanted to go help so they asked the individual to please get in the van.” That’s a lie. Watch the video again. You’ll notice there are no other ‘demonstrators’ in the vicinity. And as far as I can tell, the officers don’t speak to the kid at all, let alone politely ask him to get in the van.

Wall of Moms. What are you doing? Use your words. “Hands up, please don’t shoot me.”

We do, though, hear the person making the video ask the officers who they are and what they’re doing. And she tells them, “Use your words. What are you doing? Use your words.” That’s a phrase made popular by parenting magazines a few years ago. It’s used to get children who are acting out to clearly express what they’re trying to do. It’s used to make them explain their behavior, and to see if they understand whether or not that behavior will be effective in achieving their goal.

What are you doing? Use your words. What are these federal officers really trying to do? Do they understand if their actions are effective in achieving their goal? The goal of detaining this kid, clearly, wasn’t to protect federal buildings. The goal appears to be intimidation. The goal appears to be to allow Trump, to use his phrase, “to dominate the streets.” The goal appears to be to produce content for Trump 2020 presidential adverts. Is the behavior effective in achieving Trump’s goal? Maybe. Just last month, he stated:

“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

This isn’t the US military, but they look like it. And the appearance of toughness is what Trump wants for his presidential campaign.

What are you doing? Use your words. The amazing Wall of Moms sing, “Hands up, please don’t shoot me.” What are these moms really trying to do? Do they understand if their behavior is effective to achieving their goal? The goal appears to be discouraging police violence. Is their behavior effective? Yes, I think so. Even if they fail in the short run, they’re showing the sincerity of their resistance.

Sometimes all we’ve got to resist with is our words and our bodies. One sign carried by a woman in the Wall of Moms read, “I am so disappointed in you.” The maternal tone is perfect. We are so very disappointed.

I’m going to go all literary for a moment, so I’ll apologize in advance. Sorry. But as I was looking at photos and videos of the Wall of Moms, I kept think of some lines T.S. Eliot wrote in an unfinished verse drama.

I gotta use words when I talk to you
But if you understand or if you dont
That’s nothing to me and nothing to you
We all gotta do what we gotta do
We’re gona sit here and drink this booze
We’re gona sit here and have a tune
We’re gona stay and we’re gona go
And somebody’s gotta pay the rent.

What are you doing? Use your words. I gotta use words when I talk to you. Somebody’s always got to pay the rent. Right now, that rent is being paid by the young folks in Portland, with makeshift shields and umbrellas. It’s being paid by young dads, using leaf blowers to disperse tear gas. It’s being paid by the women wearing bicycle helmets, standing bravely in the Wall of Moms.

4 thoughts on “use your words

    • Except the LGM were better trained. But yeah, I think that’s perfectly on brand for Trump, to co-opt federal law enforcement to act as his private policing unit.

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  1. Just curious, why are you not as upset about these people destroying private property and federal property? You are only outraged that they are being arrested (legally mind you). So what gives? Do you support destruction of someone else’s property because you are mad?

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    • Hey Billy, that’s a fair question. Sort of. I AM, of course, against the destruction of private and public property. I’m very much opposed, though, to the federal government inserting policing units in tactical gear against the direct wishes of the local and state government — especially since the federal courthouse the Border Patrol agents are ‘defending’ wasn’t a target of the protest.

      If you take the time to read about the protests, you’ll find they were focused on the Multnomah County Justice Center. As the name suggests, that’s a county facility. It IS, though, across the street from the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse. On July 1st, federal officers “emerged from the boarded-up courthouse to fire pepper balls at demonstrators who came too close to the building.”

      Came too close. They weren’t assaulting the federal courthouse, they weren’t painting graffiti on it, they were just “too close”. Trespass is against the law; there’s no law against being too close. That response by the federal agents is what revived the Portland protests and made the federal courthouse a target.

      Which, it can be argued, is exactly what Trump wanted.

      Here’s a question for you. When Joe Biden is president, would you object to federal agents showing up in your hometown against the wishes of your mayor and governor to enforce a national mask mandate? I suspect you would. And guess what — I’d object to that too, though I’m in favor of such a mandate.

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