Madam President, Donald Trump has deployed a paramilitary squad to my hometown of Portland. His secret police are terrorizing my friends and neighbors. And people across this country need to understand, yesterday Donald Trump announced to America that your friends and your neighbors are next.
Unmarked vans full of armed men in military gear are snatching people off the streets. They take people away, hold them and interrogate them without justification, and ultimately without charges.
Over the weekend a close personal friend, Sharon Meieran, an ER doc and a mom was out protesting peacefully and was tear-gassed without provocation.
Millions have seen the video of a local Navy veteran who was repeatedly beaten, pepper sprayed and left with broken bones. What was his offense? He was standing motionless, hands by his side, speaking up for the liberty he served to protect.
We’ve seen reports of agents ripping a mask off of a protester who was obeying commands with hands in the air, only to pepper spray the protester’s face.
The secret police even threw flash bangs and tear gas at a “wall of moms.”
You can see right here. Over the last couple of days, moms and dads with their kids are peacefully singing songs and protesting for justice. Portland is standing up for what’s right.
Only the cowards of the Trump administration would try to convince the country that these peaceful protesters, the “wall of moms,” represent some kind of anarchist threat. It’s nonsense.
Folks, I condemn violence by anybody. And I spent much of the last week in Portland working to reduce tensions. The fact is, protests in Portland have been overwhelmingly peaceful. Crime in Portland and across Oregon was down before Trump sent in the secret police.
Donald Trump did not send in this paramilitary force to keep people safe. Trump is doing this to create images of chaos, to air them on far-right television and in campaign ads, and scare the country into reelecting him.
But these are the people Donald Trump’s paramilitary forces are attacking and terrorizing. He says it is a great success, and he plans on doing it in other cities, specifically targeting those with Democratic leadership and voters.
This kind of abusive exercise of power by a rogue president would have horrified our founders.
They wrote our Constitution to prevent exactly this behavior, because democracy cannot survive in a country that tolerates it. These tactics were used throughout the world a century ago to turn elected politicians into tyrants.
Colleagues, the president’s first and most important job is to keep Americans safe.
Residents of Portland are less safe and less secure since Donald Trump deployed the secret police on our streets. The same thing will happen anywhere else that Trump chooses to send his paramilitary forces.
Frankly, I wish Donald Trump would attack the coronavirus with the same zeal he’s attacking peaceful protesters.
While Donald Trump’s secret police are out there terrorizing Portland’s moms and doctors and other peaceful protesters, the country is facing a raging pandemic and record high unemployment. Donald Trump isn’t keeping Americans safe from those crises – he’s making both of them worse, too.
He’s attempting to cut resources for COVID testing and treatment. His administration is covering up data that public health professionals rely on to do their jobs. He wants to cut the lifelines of 30 million jobless Americans, sending them tumbling over an economic cliff right in the middle of the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression.
Donald Trump is not doing his job. He’s ignoring his responsibilities. Instead of keeping Americans safe, he’s putting them in danger.
As I said, and as I will repeat as many times as necessary: He ought to attack the pandemic, not the people of Portland.
For now, Senator Merkley and I are offering an amendment that would block Trump from using these paramilitary forces in Portland or other cities where they are unwanted.
What we’re seeing in my hometown are authoritarian brutality unleashed against peaceful protesters – moms and veterans and doctors and activists who are standing up for liberty and justice.
What Donald Trump is doing is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy laid out by our founders and expanded through the generations. What Donald Trump is doing is totally out of control. The Senate cannot allow it to happen.
That’s why Senator Merkley and I are calling for the Senate to act. And we’re going to keep pushing and fighting until this changes. I yield the floor.