On July 28, the House Judiciary Committee ostensibly held a Justice Department oversight hearing with Attorney General William Barr. What happened instead was a display of representative government at its worst. The focus was on the nightly violence in Portland, OR: Depending on whom you believe, there are attacks on protesters by federal authorities, or by Antifa against the federal police. The hearing deteriorated as both sides talked past each other.
Ngo Go Zone
Democratic Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has claimed Antifa violence in Portland is a myth! Perhaps that has something to do with how the story is being covered. For instance, The Oregonian reported:
“A small pile of trash fire [sic] caught fire just beyond the fence around 11 p.m. The debris kept burning as federal officials issued another warning. It was unclear how the fire started.”
Such a passive description. It’s as if the refuse immolated itself. It seems such vague word pictures don’t help newspaper readers understand the full extent of the explosive violence on Portland’s nighttime streets. Does this contribute to the left’s peaceful protest fantasies?
Reporter Andy Ngo, who survived a brutal beating by members of Antifa in June 2019, has used his Twitter account to post video after video detailing the felonies committed in plain view. Anyone who cares to look behind the curtain at the nightly violence might question the “mostly peaceful” description.
Why no arrests? Well, police are absent from the area, ordered by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to stay away. The same is true for state police. They are not allowed to enforce any of the plethoras of state and local laws the protesters are violating. The free-for-all atmosphere has emboldened the worst element, bringing larger groups and more violence.
A Class Act
Barr made it clear in his testimony that federal police are in Portland only because state and local police are not doing their jobs. If state authorities would act, he said, “we wouldn’t be there.” That was one of the few times Barr was allowed to speak. He was mostly talked at and talked over by Democrats.
The Democrat members of the committee seemed hellbent on speechmaking and filibustering – with the low water mark hit by Nadler, who denied Barr’s request for a five-minute bathroom break. Barr admonished Nadler, “You’re a class act.” Only after Republican members berated the chairman for his brusque response was the break granted.
A Right to Your Own Facts?
New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Everyone is harmed when one side will not address the sincere or heartfelt concerns of the other. Republicans and Democrats were both guilty of this practice at the hearing. Republicans refused to genuinely engage with an investigation into likely illegal arrests by federal authorities, and Democrats seemed willfully blind to the months-long nightly violent attacks against the federal courthouse in Portland.
“Unidentified stormtroopers. Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters and causing severe injuries in response to graffiti.” That’s what Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said is happening in Portland. Well, she was right about the cars at least. Perhaps the most widely viewed video of one of the “kidnappings” shows several federal police in head-to-toe camouflage riot gear arrest a black-clad white person. Bystanders taunt the police, shouting at them to reveal their identities, as the arrestee is led into an unmarked minivan.
What are the facts in Portland? Is Pelosi correct? A reporter at a press conference asked about the standard of probable cause federal police officers use to seize civilians. Richard “Kris” Cline, the deputy director of the Federal Protective Service, replied that officers wanted to question people in the crowd in an area where someone was aiming a laser at the eyes of officers and sought information regarding the laser pointing. That sounds like an arrest absent probable cause, in direct violation of a detainee’s constitutionally protected rights.
If Republicans would call this out and demand some measured reforms where needed, it might go a long way to prove they are concerned about overly aggressive behavior on all sides. They could require, for instance, easily identifiable names and numbers on police uniforms. That might better position them to credibly call out the excesses of the agitators and the failure of Portland’s local leadership.
The nightly protests at the federal courthouse have become a cause célèbre for the left, but little is acknowledged about the arson, Molotov cocktails, and IEDs. Media reports over and over frame the protests as “peaceful.” A cynic might say Democrats are capitalizing on the violence in Portland to advance their political prospects, power, and fundraising.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.