by Robert Romano
“Portland is a mess, and it has been for many years. If this joke of a mayor doesn’t clean it up, we will go in and do it for them!”
That was President Donald Trump on Twitter renewing his warning to Oregon Democratic Governor Kate Brown and Portland Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler that if they will not get political violence in Portland, Oreg. under control soon, he will have no other choice but to federalize the National Guard to restore civil order in the city.
The siege of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse by Antifa and other violent rioters has been going on for more than three months now in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. U.S. Marshals and other federal law enforcement have been needed to keep the building from being burnt to the ground.
On Aug. 30 the violence turned deadly when Aaron Danielson, a member of the Patriot Prayer group that often clashes with Antifa in the streets of Portland, was shot dead on the streets in an unprovoked attack. The killer remains at large.
The President’s call for Oregon to bring in the National Guard followed Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers agreeing to bring in the National Guard following the Kenosha shootings of Jacob Blake by police officer Rusten Sheskey on Aug. 23, and Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum by Kyle Rittenhouse on Aug. 25.
The rapid escalation we are witnessing should be incredibly chilling to the American people, a demonstration of what happens when riots taking place across the country are allowed to continue unabated. This is dangerous. Now, armed citizens are hitting the streets and taking matters into their own hands — with deadly results.
Is anyone surprised? Portland is a powder keg and has been a hotbed for violence by Antifa and other groups for years. It’s open rebellion in the streets of America. And it will only get worse until authorities can remove the political violence from their cities.
Last month, in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on July 28, Attorney General William Barr blasted the violence, saying, “What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest; it is, by any objective measure, an assault on the Government of the United States.”
Barr explained the violence at the end of July, “In recent nights, rioters have barricaded the front door of the courthouse, pried plywood off the windows with crowbars, and thrown commercial-grade fireworks into the building in an apparent attempt to burn it down with federal personnel inside. The rioters have started fires outside the building, and then systematically attacked federal law enforcement officers who attempt to put them out—for example, by pelting the officers with rocks, frozen water bottles, cans of food, and balloons filled with fecal matter. A recent video showed a mob enthusiastically beating a Deputy U.S. Marshal who was trying to protect the courthouse – a property of the United States government funded by this Congress – from further destruction. A number of federal officers have been injured, including one severely burned by a mortar-style firework and three who have suffered serious eye injuries and may be permanently blind.”
Why have Oregon authorities failed to act? That’s anyone’s guess but the American people are blaming liberal city mayors.
A July 29-30 Rasmussen Reports poll found that 50 percent of likely voters believe political leaders in major cities like Portland and Seattle are facilitating violent protests by limiting police response. That includes 72 percent of Republicans, 33 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of unaffiliated voters who think Democrats are allowing the urban violence to spread. Only 31 percent of all voters disagreed. 19 percent were unsure.
The only thing the riots — and the lack of a meaningful response in some cases — are accomplishing is to unite public opinion against the rioters.
And when there is a clear dereliction of duty by a state to maintain order, then the federal government has a responsibility under law to act.
Under 10 U.S. Code § 252, “Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion.”
Enacted in 1792 in response to the Whiskey Rebellion and updated in 1795, in 1807 as the Insurrection Act, in 1861 and 1956, the law allows the President to restore order whether the state’s governor wants it or not. It was used by George Washington to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, by Abraham Lincoln to wage the Civil War and by Dwight Eisenhower in 1957 when Arkansas attempted to use the Arkansas National Guard to block Brown v. Board of Education and Eisenhower federalized the Guard to enforce it. In Lincoln and Eisenhower’s cases, neither intervention was requested by state governors.
Are we witnessing the dawn of another civil war? It’s an unsettling thought, but the longer it takes for the violence to be quelled, the more it looks that way — and the danger grows that it will continue to spread everywhere. The President has a responsibility first and foremost to preserve the Union. Oregon had its chance. Time’s up.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.
Photo “Donald Trump” by Photo “Donald Trump” by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. CC BY 2.0. Background Photo “Portland Riots” by David Geitgey Sierralupe. CC BY 2.0.