AfGJ statement regarding the assault of federal armed forces on US cities
On Thursday, July 16, during a massive demonstration in defense of Black lives and to demand an end to police violence in Portland, the brutality of U.S. security forces escalated rampantly: a group of unidentified federal agents used unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland to pick up and arrest protesters. While the police, National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents used tear gas and potentially lethal weapons against demonstrators, some people reported being kidnapped and then released in a different location than where they had been taken from.
Despite the surprise of many, this is not the first time that U.S. repressive forces used kidnappings and disappearances as a tool. At AFGJ, we recognize that the strategy of arbitrary detentions, intimidation and forced disappearances is the violence that undocumented people face every day and has in the past been exercised against Black freedom fighters or Muslim people after September 11. Following its imperialist tradition, the United States has extended these practices of detention and disappearance throughout the world for years, first using the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) and now involving the Department of Homeland Security. The victims of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Jorge Rafael Videla and the Military Junta in Argentina, the prisoners at the infamous prisons of Guantanamo in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq all testify to this.
The case of Mexico teaches us that the power exercised by the state through disappearances can be transmitted to organized crime groups. Since the beginning of the War on Drugs in 2007, at least 70,000 people have disappeared in Mexico. In many cases, those responsible for these crimes are U.S.-trained security forces or elite agents – such as the Zetas cartel – who found drug trafficking to be a lucrative business. More recently, in Honduras, the Afro-Indigenous leader Snaider Centeno and three other men were disappeared by individuals wearing Investigative Police Directorate (DPI in Spanish) vests. The DPI was originally trained by U.S. security forces.
The presence of CBP agents at the events in Portland is unexpected but not surprising. For several years, undocumented communities, immigrant and refugee rights activists, border community organizers and anti-imperialist fighters have alerted us to the dangers of the Border Patrol and its repressive role within the U.S., regardless of the governing political party. The Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) – CBP’s elite force – present at the Portland events, has trained security forces from over 30 countries in counter-terrorism techniques. Using BORTAC for domestic affairs is another step in the agenda to criminalize resistance and bring the country one step closer to fascism.
Portland was not the test case, and certainly it was not the last one. In early June, unidentified federal agents were deployed after the successful Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Washington, D.C. In the same month, residents of Columbus, Ohio, and San Diego, California, reported arrests made by unidentified federal agents in unmarked cars. Recent reports point to the expansion of this strategy to other cities in the country, including the use of the Department of Homeland Security-Border Patrol.
To the threats of repression and death, our response must be active solidarity. This may be the last opportunity to learn from other experiences of resistance around the world, to challenge privilege, and to listen to communities impacted by State terrorism. This is a provocation to finally understand that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is no longer time to turn a blind eye to the consequences of U.S. imperialism around the world. The eyes of the international community are upon us.
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