President Trump’s top Homeland Security official denounced accusations on Tuesday that federal officers cracking down on protests in Portland are “Gestapo” as backlash mounted over the administration’s aggressive response to unrest in the Oregon city.
Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, pushed back against the secret police characterizations during a briefing in Washington, D.C, calling it “hyperbolic and dishonest.”
“These officers are not military,” Wolf said of the throngs of feds in tactical gear who have been seen arresting protesters en masse in Portland. “These police officers are not stormtroopers, they are not the Gestapo as some have described them.”
The Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s secret police, was notorious for arbitrarily arresting political dissidents.
Trump critics have compared the administration’s Portland response to the Nazi tactic, as videos have shown federal officers from DHS and other agencies grabbing protesters off the street and hauling them away in unmarked vans.
Democrats are also outraged that the camouflage-donning federal squads in many cases have not worn identifying badges or uniforms.
Questions have swirled about the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s protest crackdown, since federal forces generally can’t be deployed to states without the explicit invitation of local officials. Portland’s mayor as well as Oregon’s governor have both called on the administration to pull out the federal forces.
But Wolf insisted that the government is within the bounds of the law because the squads are deployed to protect “federal property” like courthouses.
“We will not retreat,” Wolf said. “We will continue to take the appropriate action to protect our facilities.”
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