Unidentified Federal Officers are a problem
Unlike the more widely-known UFOs, as in the Unidentified Flying Objects of science fiction and popular culture, these UFOs are all too verifiable.
Just . . . not that easy to trace. And that’s a huge problem.
They showed up to oppose what often had been mostly-peaceful protesters who were exercising their First Amendment rights. But especially in Portland, the protesters shifted their focus to opposing the Federal agents.
Portland protesters reported multiple arrests by unidentified officers who seemingly plucked random people off the streets and took them away in unmarked vans. For some idea of how terrifying this looks, a video tweeted by the Sparrow Project captures one such arrest (warning: some onlookers use profanity).
This presents such a frightening similarity to actions in authoritarian regimes that many people had visceral reactions. The now-famous “Wall of Moms” came out in their yellow T-shirts to oppose this in particular. Their movement has now become controversial. But when it first occurred, the immediate comparison I drew was to the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
Yes, I’m once again gonna mark myself as old,because I personally remember when people said the rumors about “the disappeared” must be an exaggeration. Surely not, in a civilized society such as Argentina! Maybe some of those disclaimers were made because the “Dirty War” was secretly supported by the United States. But it turned out the grandmothers were right.
Why is the anonymity so ominous?
The most disturbing part of this development, for me and for others, was the anonymity of the officers. Yes, I know some police briefly claimed they might remove ids to avoid doxxing—which they feared might occur.
I worry more about the lack of accountability. If you can’t tell what agency—if any—the soldier-looking guys came from, how can you call them out for overreach? How can you tell whether they’re actual Federal agents, or well-equipped right wing militia members?
If the Wall of Moms can buy matching T-shirts, couldn’t the Proud Boys or some other group buy matching camo? And those tactical helmets with gas masks conceal as much of a person’s face as any Ku Klux Klan disguise (even pre-hood).
I also worry about the rumor that the president and some of his supporters tried to spark a culture war on the chance it might improve his polling numbers. If that could be a motivation, what else might be?
A July protest letter from 27 Senators reflects this unease over unaccountable anonymous agents acting against the First Amendment rights of protesters. And apparently they made a difference. All of the unidentified Federal officers withdrew from Washington, DC and Portland by late July. So far, no one has deployed them elsewhere.
I’m deeply grateful to Scott Stantis for exactly capturing my feelings on this topic, and I’m hoping to goodness that he and Andrews McMeel will see this as fair use, especially considering their “Contact Us” link kept returning a 404 Error, and GoComics sent me to an additional, unhelpful place. I really did try, people!
And finally I really want to thank CNN and Brendan Smialowski, via AFP/Getty, for the photo of the unidentified group on 14th Street in Washington DC, later identified as a Bureau of Prisons riot team.