On July 1, 2020, Trump created, via executive order, a new law enforcement task force- Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), ostensibly to protect “our nation’s historic monuments, memorials, statues, and federal facilities,” according to the EO. This force is under the control of DHS’s Chad Wolf.
This would appear to be a natural, Trumpian extension of the same type of arbitrary force used in DC to make way for Donny’s biblical photo op. However, where the action in DC had a semi-plausible legal argument for the entire undertaking, the justification for PACT’s action’s in Portland are not only murky at best, if a legal justification is ever settled upon in its support, it would open a new, and terrifying, declaration of concentrated, unyielding federal power where none existed before.
As it stands, that terrifying power is one that is unchallenged and unidentifiable. It’s able to act with impunity, seize citizens, and detain them without declaration of authority to do so, or even declaration of a charge itself. PACT is able to use force as they see fit, and if their actions thus far are an indicator- wherever they see fit, despite the pretense of protecting federal property. We could go and map out exactly how far away from a federal facility were the people they detained without charge so far, but it doesn’t matter. That they were not on federal property is already clear despite any proximity. We could view again a man being shot in the head outside of a federal property in Portland and know the use of force was not only incommensurate, it wasn’t necessary at all despite proximity to federal property.
I believe this new force’s ability to operate with impunity outside of federal property partially hinges on the self-declared power in Trump’s EO.
“As a result, DHS created the PACT, which will conduct ongoing assessments of potential civil unrest or destruction and allocate resources to protect people and property. This may involve potential surge activity to ensure the continuing protection of critical locations.“
This self-declared power to operate outside of federal property without any declared rules of engagement or specified level of force, is joined to a cobbled together, bundle of statues, state by state, which highlights where this new Federal force *is* acting within state guidelines, and where they are not.
Who is going to do anything about it? This would be the domain of Congress to write and pass laws, but we all know that isn’t going to happen, thanks to the GOP controlled Senate. States’ rights only matter to the GOP if it assures a right to discriminate. First amendment rights only matter if it’s in support of the ability to lie without consequences, support of election interference, or to level the playing field between facts and propaganda. So, the House can have some hearings and declare they have strong feeling about the injustice of it all.
Oregon’s Attorney General has filed the first lawsuit on the grounds of detention without probable cause. I’m sure there will be more suits to follow from Oregon. The ACLU has also filed its first suit in reaction to PACT’s actions in Portland. Again, expect many suits from the ACLU.
We should also expect similar Stormtrooper tactics from PACT to be taken immediately in other states without the existence of any federal court order to the contrary. They are not going to stop in Portland, according to Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli.
“Well, we are – we welcome – the more investigations, the better. With as much lawbreaking is going on, we’re seeking to prosecute as many people as are breaking the law as it relates to federal jurisdiction. That’s not always happening with respect to local jurisdiction and local offenses. But, you know, this is a posture we intend to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.”
Outside of what should be Congress’ legislative actions to reign in this administration’s brazen creation of a new federal police force and commandeering and reshaping of disparate federal entities to that end, is the long list of individual state laws any of their activities have/would run afoul of. Best explained here.
It is clear, states like NY, California, Illinois, and Michigan might want to look into legal clarification of the scope of autonomy any federal forces have in their states now. Pronto. State’s AGs need to act now. If there are class actions they can form to get temporary orders, DO IT NOW.
It is also clear, the Trump administration feels as if they are winning no matter what. If they succeed in terrorizing citizens into not exercising their rights…that’s a win. If the Trump administration, through its newly formed PACT Stormtroopers, can instigate violent conflict, that is also a win. Ultimately, this staged undertaking, like the event in DC, is photo-op, red meat for the moronic cult and propaganda material for the Trump campaign. Nothing else.