07.29.2020 0

Attorney General Barr: Portland insurrection by Antifa on federal courthouse ‘an assault on the Government of the United States’

By Robert Romano

“What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest; it is, by any objective measure, an assault on the Government of the United States.”

That was Attorney General William Barr, pulling no punches on the two-months-long riot directed at the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland, Oreg. in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on July 28. The riot, like so many others across the country, began following the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May, and is in part being directed by Antifa.

Barr went on to describe the nightly mayhem, stating, “Every night for the past two months, a mob of hundreds of rioters has laid siege to the federal courthouse and other nearby federal property. The rioters arrive equipped for a fight, armed with powerful slingshots, tasers, sledgehammers, saws, knives, rifles, and explosive devices. Inside the courthouse are a relatively small number of federal law enforcement personnel charged with a defensive mission: to protect the courthouse, home to Article III federal judges, from being overrun and destroyed.”

And it’s getting worse. From Barr, again, “In recent nights, rioters have barricaded the front door of the courthouse, pried plywood off the windows with crowbars, and thrown commercial-grade fireworks into the building in an apparent attempt to burn it down with federal personnel inside. The rioters have started fires outside the building, and then systematically attacked federal law enforcement officers who attempt to put them out—for example, by pelting the officers with rocks, frozen water bottles, cans of food, and balloons filled with fecal matter. A recent video showed a mob enthusiastically beating a Deputy U.S. Marshal who was trying to protect the courthouse – a property of the United States government funded by this Congress – from further destruction. A number of federal officers have been injured, including one severely burned by a mortar-style firework and three who have suffered serious eye injuries and may be permanently blind.”

Barr is right. These are not peaceful protests, by wanton acts of political violence and an attempt to overthrow the federal government.

Barr added, “we should all be able to agree that there is no place in this country for armed mobs that seek to establish autonomous zones beyond government control, or tear down statues and monuments that law-abiding communities chose to erect, or to destroy the property and livelihoods of innocent business owners. The most basic responsibility of government is to ensure the rule of law, so that people can live their lives safely and without fear.”


For now, Barr is promising the Justice Department will do what it can to ensure the rule of law in Portland and across the country. So far, the U.S. Marshals Service have deployed about 100 deputy marshals to secure the perimeter around the building, but the size of the riot has grown to about 4,000 large on some nights according to some estimates, and it may be time to call in the National Guard.

“It’s scary. You open those doors out, when the crowd is shaking the fence, and… on the other side of that fence are people that want to kill you because of the job we chose to do and what we represent,” said one Deputy U.S. Marshal who has been protecting the courthouse for weeks.

President Trump blasted the violence on Twitter, stating, “The Fake News Media is trying to portray the Portland and Seattle ‘protesters’ as wonderful, sweet and innocent people just out for a little stroll. Actually, they are sick and deranged Anarchists & Agitators who our great men & women of Law Enforcement easily control, but who…….would destroy our American cities, and worse, if Sleepy Joe Biden, the puppet of the Left, ever won. Markets would crash and cities would burn. Our Country would suffer like never before. We will beat the Virus, soon, and go on to the Golden Age – better than ever before!”

But at some point, if the City of Portland cannot restore order — Oregon Governor Kate Brown refuses to activate the National Guard and city has demanded the protective fence surrounding the building come down despite multiple arson attempts — a military attack like this should be met with a military response.

Which, the President would be well within his power to do so. Under 10 U.S. Code § 252, “Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion.”

Enacted in 1792 in response to the Whiskey Rebellion and updated in 1795, 1807 (when the Insurrection Act replaced it), 1861 and 1956, this provision of law was used by George Washington to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, by Abraham Lincoln to wage the Civil War and by Dwight Eisenhower in 1957 when Arkansas attempted to use the Arkansas National Guard to block Brown v. Board of Education and Eisenhower federalized the Guard to enforce it. In Lincoln and Eisenhower’s cases, neither intervention was at the request of state governors.

This column had called for similar action against the autonomous zone established in Seattle before the city finally relented and had it disbanded. The federal government absolutely cannot afford to back down in this instance — or else risk the rebellion spreading even further. Barr and Trump are right. It’s time to get tough.

Robert Romano is the Vice President Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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