A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Col Owens: Gestapo tactics must stop now; speak out for the America we know and love, not this


We have recently witnessed in Portland, Oregon, an occurrence which should never happen in our America – the insertion of unidentified armed men in unmarked vehicles “arresting” – i.e., kidnapping – unarmed civilians off the street. With no evidence of authority, no warrant for arrest.

These people are mostly engaged in peaceful protest demonstrations.

This is not the country we live in. Even after almost four years of Donald Trump’s outrageous and largely failed presidency, this is a new and extremely dangerous low.

Words come to mind. Gestapo tactics. Fascism. Many reject such language. But many others nod their heads. The rise of fascism in Europe is too recent, too vivid in our minds. Those who cannot imagine it could happen here are not paying attention. It has started.

Col Owens

What is not well known is that the Department of Homeland Security – DHS – hires large numbers of contract employees to do this work of “crowd control,” supposedly the protection of federal properties, through an internal agency called the Federal Protective Service (FPS). According to sources, the agency is comprised largely of such contractors. They are furnished to FPS/DHS by major private security companies like the Blackwater corporate descendant Triple Canopy, along with many others. Blackwater was a major source of contract mercenaries for the Iraq war.

The situation in Portland is not a one-off thing. Trump has promised that he is sending federal agents to Chicago, because of alleged out-of-control violence there – despite the Mayor’s having indicated she does not want or need such forces. Beyond that, Trump has said that he would send as many as 75,000 troops to American cities – specifically, American cities with Democratic mayors, on the pretext that they will not keep order – whether invited or not.

This is not the America we know and love. Despite our problems, we value and support local and state government, and their authority and responsibility for dealing with local situations. On occasion, when pressed beyond their resources, they can invite in federal assistance. But the federal government does not have the authority to come in without invitation and take over. And certainly not with an army of mercenaries acting – yes – like Gestapo agents.

We cannot allow such actions. There are many wrongs these days that need to be addressed. But this street action in Portland is a portent of possibilities too fearful to ignore. What is Trump’s point? To support his narrative that America has descended into chaos from which only he can deliver us, to enhance his chances for re-election? To prepare us for his refusal to turn over power, should he lose the election in November? To prepare us for a decision to cancel the election, under the same pretense?

Many will read this and scoff. Not here, they say. Much as Germans said in the 30’s. Well, turn on your TV and watch events in Portland. Yes, here.

Rep. John Lewis said, when you see something wrong, say something, do something.

We’re seeing something dreadfully wrong. Let’s speak up. Let’s stop this now.

Col Owens is a retired attorney. He teaches Poverty Law at NKU’s Chase College of Law. His memoir, Bending the Arc Toward Justice, (Cincinnati Book Publishing, 2020) is coming out in the fall.


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9 Comments

  1. Willie says:

    Col, so the America YOU know and love is the rioters burning our country down. Got it.

  2. Richard says:

    You talk about Gestapo tactics, well, that is what the anarchists are doing in Portland. These people are not peaceful, they want to get rid of the police. They bring lasers, sling shots with ball bearings, rocks and other weapons to their ‘peaceful protests’. You should be afraid of them, and of the people who would let this type of behavior continue. The federal police would not even be there, if not for the violence that is perpetrated every evening. You are a law professor? Have you heard of law and order?

  3. J Smith says:

    There is not one confirmed case of that actually happening. Why do you believe anarchists over your own country without proof?

  4. Barbara says:

    There are more than whisperings that a lot of the violence attached to current protests is coming from organized groups who want to discredit the anger that BLM is expressing against systemic racism. Neither side has a lock on “fact”–whatever that may be in this highly polarized society. However, as far as I am aware, anarchism is an epithet being hurted at protesters; it is not self identification. It is vitally important that everyone vote in the upcoming election. This is one of the best ways to have one’s voice heard and to influence the direction of the country.

  5. John Elm says:

    Imagine calling the Boston tea party fascist anarchists…. because that’s exactly what you lot are doing. The author isn’t “believing” anyone, he’s pointing out facts, real things that happen and that everyone can see. How are “anarchists” destroying america? They burned down a single police station, it’s ridiculously less than what General Washington did to the British establishments to create your precious USA, and broken some windows of big businesses that can easily repair the damages, have no loyalty to your country anyway (they do more business in Russia and India, and that’s all they really care about).
    Not that you are in any way familiar with the concept of acknowledging facts. We know that, to you, everything is about feelings of righteousness, and beliefs.
    Have you ever read 1984? Because if you read it, and you have read about Orwell’s actual life, rather than the American propaganda version of it, you’ll find that Animal farm and 1984 are not criticisms of socialism, they are warnings of exactly people like you, of your newspeak and of your precious donald duck trying to suppress wrongthink through jackbooted police and executive orders against news outlets and social media.

    • Richard says:

      The Boston tea participants were fighting real oppression. We have a bill of rights that allows for peaceful protest thanks in part to them. Why are these anarchists burning down anything? Why are they looting stores? Why are they attacking police? If you want to affect change, do it at the ballot box, instead of trying to bring down the greatest country that has ever existed. Don’t take my word for it…ask any immigrant.

  6. GS Ruddin says:

    Trump calls Antifa fascists when in reality the people supporting destruction of civil rights, engaging in mass shootings, supporting racial bigotry and religious discrimination and demanding a strong fascistic ruler like the one who governed in 1930s Europe are his own right wing base.
    Watching federal government troops attack, kidnap, shoot and even kill their own protesters are definitely signs of a fascistic ruler. Not that anyone is surprised given that the extremist who actually lost the election has become President. Shame on Trump.

  7. Dennis Kelley says:

    Where do you folks get that this is Trump’s problem. The great instigator G. Soros has paid for most of these “protests (riots & shopping sprees) since many of the group is from out of state and has been sent to cause the fires and looting. Defunding of the police is the best thing ever – try it for a few weeks and we’ll see how the cryers react then. None of their stuff has been burned or looted but with no police – it will be. I hope and pray that this virus hoax ends with the election. we’ll have to see what the Dems and Mr. Soros comes up with then. Socialism has failed in every country and area it has been rammed down peoples throat – like obama care(FAILURE) Just ask the folks in Venezula how they feel paying 5 dollars for a loaf of bread – if they can find bread. WAKE UP AMERICA you are being sold a bill of lousy good by the Dems and the socialist media. JMO.

  8. lindsey says:

    This article is a laughing stock. “wow” is all I have to say. The only sense I can make of it, is that everyone in this country has it too easy and they’re all taken care of, so they have to create problems and create drama and have nothing better to do than protest and loot.
    In any other normal country if you take off a day of work to go protest you’d better hope you don’t lose your job or run out of money for food and rent. All of these people have an agenda, and they’re well beyond the middle class white girl waving a flag at a “protest” (more like a virtue signaling competition) on a Sunday afternoon type.

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