There’s never a states’ rights hero around when you need one

Federal officers prepare to disperse the crowd of protestors outside the Multnomah County Justice Center on July 17, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Federal law enforcement agencies attempt to intervene as protests continue in Portland. (Photo by Mason Trinca/Getty Images)

In Portland, Oregon, unidentified armed assailants dressed in military fatigues have been snatching people off the streets, piling them into unmarked vans, and taking them away.

Just as the founders intended.

No, seriously, the founders must have intended for that to happen. Otherwise the people who are always proclaiming their worship of rights, and freedom, and liberty — people who are quite certain they know a lot more than you about what the founders intended — would be condemning this assault on, well, rights, and freedom, and liberty.

And they’re not.

Any discomfort, any momentary tinge of cognitive dissonance, appears to be assuaged by who’s in charge. The thugs dispatched to seize American citizens off the streets of a U.S. city, you see, are federal officers carrying out orders of the Trump administration.

The Oregon attorney general has filed a suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Protective Service. Oh, and the AG in Nevada’s neighbor to the northwest has also sued “John Does 1-10,” who are so named, the suit explains, because the government has “made it impossible for them to be individually identified by carrying out law enforcement actions without wearing any identifying information, even so much as the agency that employs them.”

Ain’t that America?

The “John Does” and their cohorts have been conducting the aforementioned abductions of your fellow Americans “without either arresting them or stating the basis for an arrest, since at least Tuesday, July 14,” according to allegations in the suit.

“Ordinarily, a person exercising his right to walk through the streets of Portland who is confronted by anonymous men in military-type fatigues and ordered into an unmarked van can reasonably assume that he is being kidnapped and is the victim of a crime,” the suit notes. Which is true.

“Defendants are injuring the occupants of Portland,” the suit continues, “by taking away citizens’ ability to determine whether they are being kidnapped by militia or other malfeasants dressed in paramilitary gear (such that they may engage in self-defense to the fullest extent permitted by law) or are being arrested (such that resisting might amount to a crime).”

The abductions, in addition to creeping everyone out, are violations of the 1st, 4th and 5th amendments, says the suit, which seeks an injunction ordering the Trump administration to, well, stop being a bunch of lawless thugs.

Remember that one day when people who think fighting the covid is unconstitutional or something went to the Nevada governor’s office, with guns, to call him a dictator and shake their fists at the sky and yell about freedom?

Or remember that time a huge “Blue Lives Matter” march was supposed to be held in Las Vegas?

Imagine if, at such an event, federal officers started just cold grabbing protesters and hauling them away with no explanation whatsoever.

Imagine the outcry from the likes of, oh, Fox News, or Adam Laxalt, or Brobdingnagian Dan Rodimer, or Michele Fiore, or that one whosit carnival barker who used to have a column in the RJ. They would have had a cow (donated by Cliven Bundy no doubt).

So you’d think those self-professed lovers of freedom and rights and liberty and the rule of law, those self-identified “Real Americans,” and their ilk would be pitching a fit over tyrannical and dictatorial federal actions designed to, as Trump likes to say, “dominate” the citizenry. 

After all, as the Oregon AG’s suit asserts, “Citizens peacefully gathering on the streets of Portland to protest racial inequality have the right…”

Oh. Wait. It looks we’ve found the extenuating circumstances.

It’s not as if people in Portland were making noise on behalf of some truly cherished American value, like the freedom to spread covid to others, or the right of a welfare cowboy to make taxpayers foot the bill to feed his cows.

It’s not as if people in Portland were standing up to support the perpetuation of the traditional status quo, wherein police kill Black people and no one is held accountable.

No, the people in Portland have been protesting racial inequality.

Your freedom-loving, mask-despising patriots may, as a rule, view Big Guvment para-trooping a light military force into a state — without giving notice to, let alone being requested by, that state’s duly elected officials or law enforcement — as a violation of every star-spangled red white & blue value they hold so dear.

Unless the stormtroopers are violating the rights and liberty of people who are challenging North America’s 400-year legacy of cruelty, violence, theft, rape, and systemic oppression of people who aren’t white. When people are protesting that, kidnapping Americans is evidently OK. Even if the people being secreted away are white (seriously have you been to Portland?).

No one expects intellectual consistency, or intellectual much of anything, from Laxalt, Rodimer, Fiore & Friends.

And everyone, even and especially his supporters, know that “law and order” just means continued oppression and domination of everyone who isn’t a Trump supporter when Trump says it.

Ah, but maybe these harsh and authoritarian tactics undertaken by the weak wannabe strongman will at least quell unrest or vandalism in Portland, and Dear Leader Trump will save the day after all.

Eh, not so much. 

“Their presence,” the Oregonian reported Monday of Trump’s invasion of Portland, “has stoked the nightly strife in downtown, not tamped down tensions as professed by Trump or Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf, local and state leaders say.”

Portland’s mayor has said, well, a lot of things, as you can imagine. But this is the most important:

“This could happen in your city.”

As if on cue, Trump Monday blustered that he’s going to send his American Gestapo to Chicago and several other cities “all run by liberal Democrats.”

No one would ever accuse Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman of being one of those. But she doesn’t really run the metro area, the county commission does, and however to the left you may think they are, rest assured it’s more than enough to qualify as “liberal Democrats” in Trump’s noggin. Laughable though it may seem, the same goes for Nevada’s governor and Democrats who have majorities in the Legislature.

Trump hasn’t targeted Las Vegas for unconstitutional and malicious military thuggery. Yet. But if and when he does, it’s a safe bet Nevada Trump supporters, “states’ rights” devotees all, will demonstrate their commitment to the nation’s founding principles of liberty and freedom by cheering him on.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.