Daily US Times: Unidentifiable heavily armed security agents dressed in military-style camouflage have been snatching anti-racism protesters off the streets of Portland, Oregon, and bundling them into unmarked cars, with no clear justification. You might not expect these kind of shocking scenes in America, rather you might expect to see in authoritarian countries.
It turns out that many of among the hodge-podge of paramilitary-style officers wearing no name badges were from the Department of Homeland Security, which was established after 9/11 primarily to deal with terrorism. More specifically, the officers were from the department’s Customs and Border Protection agency, which is supposed “to safeguard America’s borders” from dangerous materials and people.
US President Donald Trump has been repeatedly branded anti-racism protesters across the country as “terrorists,” and his promise to “surge” his paramilitary-style units from Portland to other Democrat-run cities in coming weeks. His promise, despite the shocking scenes in America, shows he is willing to employ the repressive tactics used by autocrats to vilify those who challenge them.
In a letter to the Justice and Homeland Security departments, Oregon Congress members Suzanne Bomamici, Jeffrey Merkley, Earl Blumenauer and Ron Wyden portrayed these shocking scenes in America and lashed out at Trump following the crackdown in Portland, likening officers pushing protesters into unmarked SUVs to tactics used in authoritarian countries.
The Congress members wrote that these tactics include deploying federal agents without identifying insignia in an apparent effort to evade accountability and transparency, snatching people off the street with no apparent reason for apprehension, and using potentially deadly munitions to harm peaceful protesters.”These actions are out of control. These actions are more reflective of tactics of a government led by a dictator, not from the government of our constitutional democratic republic,” they wrote.
The letter also added that they were “chillingly reminiscent of autocratic governments that ‘disappear’ opponents and critics.
In Egypt, anti-government protests are essentially banned and forced disappearances are not uncommon. Thousands of people were detained at rare demonstrations in the country last year calling for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s resignation.
Amnesty International said more than 100 detained were under the age of 17, dozens of whom faced charges for being members of terrorist organizations.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey openly describes anti-government protesters as terrorists, and many have been jailed under anti-terror laws, along with academics, rights activists and journalists in the past two years.
In Hong Kong, earlier this month, a 23-year-old pro-democracy protester became the first person to be prosecuted under China’s new national security law, widely seen as a way for China to seize powers from the semi-autonomous city.
Tong Yong-kit was charged with inciting terrorist activities and secession under the law, accused of ramming his motorbike into a group of police officers.
Beijing also uses its counterterrorism drive well beyond protests. It has used a secessionist movement and bouts of political violence in the autonomous Xinjiang region to justify the detention of more than 1 million Muslim-minority Uighur people in “re-education camps,” according to estimates by several human rights groups and the US State Departments.
It would be easy to dismiss the Mr Trump shouting “terrorist” as Trump just being Trump, but the US president’s calls for designating Antifa a terrorist organization shows he has an appetite for new counterterrorism laws to quell dissenting voices.
Trump has blamed Antifa — short for anti-fascist, a loosely based movement with no formal headquarters or leaders — for acts of violence amid largely peaceful protests.
Who is a terrorist?
In many parts of the world, anti-terror laws have been problematic and issues often stem from the fact that there is no specified or agreed international definition of what a terrorist is. In Turkey, rights activists and academics seen as supportive of President Erdogan’s rival-in-exile, Fethullah Gulen, have been jailed under terrorism laws.
A journalist critical of Russia’s lack of civil freedoms was recently convicted of justifying terrorism.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution after the 9/11 attacks, urging its member states to devise and update laws to adequately address terrorism. But UN Security Council left it to individual countries to define terrorism.
In many countries, what followed was a rash of anti-terror laws that have been criticized for being so broad in definition, sometimes deliberately, that they essentially legalize an abuse of governmental power.
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