Is Donald Trump Attempting to Implement A Police State in Portland, Oregon?

Federal officers, from the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, in Portland, Oregon, where they have been causing huge consternation by teargassing protestors, bypassing local police, and raising fears of the establishment, by the Trump administration, of a police state.

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I’ve been shocked by the nightly scenes of violence beamed around the world from Portland, Oregon, where Donald Trump has sent in federal law enforcement officers — from the Department of Homeland Security, the US Marshals Service and the border patrol — to bypass Portland’s own police force and to assault and terrify protestors, who, since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis two months ago, have been engaged in ongoing protests about racism and police brutality.

As the Guardian explained, Donald Trump sent federal law enforcement officers to “take control” of Portland at the start of July, having decided that it “had been abandoned by its mayor to anarchists and mob rule.” The officers, “often in unmarked uniforms and vehicles”, have been deployed against protesters in Portland since the beginning of the month, “using teargas, stun grenades and munitions to control crowds descending on to federal buildings in Oregon’s largest city.”

As the Guardian also explained, the arrival of the federal officers initially “sent a wave of alarm through the demonstrators after men in camouflage began snatching people off the streets in unmarked vans. Those detained said they were dragged into the courthouse without being told why they were being arrested or by whom and then suddenly let go without any official record of being held. It smacked of police state tactics. So did some of the violence meted out by federal agents who looked more like an occupying army in a war zone.”

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“I Can’t Breathe”: Afghan Prisoner Asadullah Haroon Gul on Black Lives Matter and Violent Oppression in Guantánamo

Asadullah Haroon Gul, as featured in a photo taken in Guantánamo by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and made available to his family.

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Over the last few months I’ve cross-posted, on two occasions, articles by Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan prisoner in Guantánamo who is seeking the support of his government in securing his release — A Coronavirus Lament by Guantánamo Prisoner Asadullah Haroon Gul and Asadullah Haroon Gul, a “No-Value Detainee,” and One of the Last Two Afghans in Guantánamo, Asks to Be Freed — and below I’m cross-posting a third, written in response to the reawakening of the Black Lives Matter movement, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and originally published in Newsweek. In it, Gul takes George Floyd’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” and draws parallels with the brutal treatment of prisoners in Guantánamo, himself included, expressing support for Black Lives Matter and hoping that, like the civil rights movement, it will bring significant change.

As he states, “America’s business is not my business but if human beings anywhere are struggling for justice, I must support them even from my cell in Guantánamo Bay. Perhaps my brothers and sisters marching in the streets will turn their eyes on this island prison, and witness our common cause.”

One of the last prisoners to arrive at Guantánamo, in June 2007, Gul was apparently seized because of his alleged involvement with Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), led by the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had supported Al-Qaeda at the time of the US-led invasion. Gul very clearly had no meaningful connection with HIG, his involvement extending only to having lived, with his wife and family, in a refugee camp that HIG ran, but, as in so many cases of mistaken identity at Guantánamo, the US authorities didn’t care.

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No Justice, No Peace on the Third Anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire

The Grenfell Silent Walk on December 14, 2017, commemorating those who died in the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London six months earlier, on June 14, 2017. The Silent Walks took place every month until the coronavirus lockdown hit.

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Since the very public murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis three weeks ago, there has been a welcome and understandable resurgence of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement that first surfaced back in 2014, after a spate of police murders of unarmed black men and boys in the US.

Today, as we remember the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, which occurred exactly three years ago, the resurgence of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement seems entirely appropriate. 

72 people died in an inferno that engulfed the 1970s tower block they lived in in North Kensington, an inferno that was caused, primarily, because the structural integrity of the building had been lethally compromised by a re-cladding operation designed to make the tower look more “attractive” — not only had existing windows not been repaired or replaced to make sure that they were fireproof, but the re-cladding involved holes being drilled all over the tower that, on the night that the fire broke out, allowed it to consume the entire tower is an alarmingly short amount of time.  

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Photos: The London Protest Against Donald Trump’s UK Visit, July 13, 2018

Some of my photos from the protest in London against Donald Trump's UK visit on July 13, 2018.Please check out my photo set on Flickr!

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So yesterday a huge protest against Donald Trump, on his first visit to the UK since he became the US president 18 months ago, took place in London. The organisers estimated that almost 250,000 people had turned up, and I was delighted to see so many witty handmade placards, and so many young people showing up to tell Trump that he is not welcome here. Much of the focus, of course, was on his position as the world’s most powerful sexual predator, but there were also numerous placards taking aim at his recent and thoroughly disgraceful immigration clampdown, when he separated children from their parents and imprisoned them.

I was, of course, delighted to see large numbers of people — and particularly women and girls — protesting against Trump, but from the beginning of his presidency, when a visit was first planned, and then called off because of the anticipated scale of protests against him, I have made a point of stating that, while I understand the particular horror of Trump’s role as a sexual predator and people’s opposition to him on that basis, on everything else we should be out on the streets every day protesting against the vile Theresa May and her vile government. In her six years as home secretary, May was persistently racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic, and, of course, was behind the “hostile environment” for immigrants that led to people who were part of the post-war Windrush generation form the Caribbean being forcibly sent back to their countries of origin, despite having lived in the UK for decades.

That said, it is clear that the sheer size of yesterday’s protest ought to give us hope for the future, as it represented, in many ways, a coming together of the many, many different groups of people affected by Donald Trump and what he represents, and if we can do this for Trump then perhaps we can do it again once he’s gone home, and we’re still stuck wth the most ideologically bankrupt government of my lifetime, in which most of the issues that brought people together in such large numbers yesterday are still as relevant — a right-wing, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic government composed mostly of old white people, hopelessly embroiled in a Brexit nightmare of their own making, that, like Trump’s election, needs to be seen as the death rattle of this old white world. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Telling Trump to Close Guantánamo – The White House protest, Jan. 11, 2018

Campaigners calling for the closure of Guantanamo at the annual protest outside the White House on January 11, 2018, the 16th anniversary of the prison's opening.

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On January 11, 2018, for the eighth year running, I joined protestors in Washington, D.C., calling on the US government to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, a shameful example of indefinite detention without charge or trial run by a country that claims to respect the rule of law, on the 16th anniversary of its opening. This was the first anniversary that Guantánamo has been under the control of Donald Trump, and there was a passion and an anger at the gathering, replacing the disappointment that was the hallmark of most of the Obama years.

I posted my thoughts about the day in a previous article, Telling Donald Trump to Close Guantánamo: My Report on an Inspiring 24 Hours of Protest and Resistance in Washington, D.C. on the 16th Anniversary of the Prison’s Opening, so this update is really more of an opportunity for you to see what went on in front of the White House — the placards and banners, some of the wonderful people involved, and, sadly, the heavy-handed police presence when five protestors tried to carry a banner towards the White House calling for the release of the 41 men still held “along with the thousands imprisoned in immigration detention centers and the millions of victims of hyper-incarceration in the US”, as one of the five, Brian Terrell, described it in an article afterwards.

As he put it, “To approach the White House, we needed to cross under yellow police line tape and were immediately arrested by uniformed Secret Service police. I have been attending protests at the White House since Jimmy Carter lived there and with each succeeding administration, the space allowed for political discourse has been reduced and the once protected free speech of citizens increasingly criminalized there. Under Trump, half the width of the formerly public sidewalk in front of the White House is fenced off, the inner perimeter now patrolled by officers armed with automatic weapons. Pennsylvania Avenue, long ago closed to vehicular traffic, is now closed off to pedestrians at the hint of a demonstration. This public forum, a place of protest and advocacy for more than a century, the place where the vote for women and benefits for veterans were won, has been strangled to the point where no dissent is tolerated there.” Read the rest of this entry »

How Much Is A Life Worth? New Album Released Today by The Four Fathers, London Journalist and Activist Andy Worthington’s Band

The cover of The Four Fathers' new album, 'How Much Is A Life Worth?'I’m delighted to announce that today my band The Four Fathers are releasing our second album, How Much Is A Life Worth? via Bandcamp, where you can buy it on CD (which can be sent anywhere in the world), or as a download (either the whole album, or individual tracks). The CD costs £8 (about $10.67), plus postage and packing, while the download of the album costs £5 (about $6.67), with individual tracks available for $1 (about $1.33). These are the minimum prices, but you can always pay more if you want to provide us with extra financial support, to help us recoup the costs of recording and production.

The album features ten original rock and roots reggae songs — eight written by me, as lead singer and rhythm guitarist, and two written by lead guitarist Richard Clare. It follows the release in 2015 of the band’s first album, ‘Love and War,’ and continues to demonstrate a commitment to political issues, with six of the album’s ten songs being protest songs. The band also features Brendan Horstead on drums and percussion, Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica, and Louis Sills-Clare on bass (replaced after the album was recorded by current bassist Mark Quiney).

Followers of the band on Bandcamp — or those who have seen us live — will already know some of these songs, as six of them have previously been released online, although all of them have now been slightly remastered. Those songs are, in order of release, ‘Close Guantánamo’ (used for the ‘Close Guantánamo’ campaign that I run), ‘Dreamers’ (a song about friendship, written for a friend’s 50th birthday), live favourites ’Riot’ (about austerity and the need for social and economic justice) and ‘London’ (a lament for how the capital’s vibrancy in the 80s and 90s has been destroyed by housing greed), ‘She’s Back’ (Richard’s song about Pussy Riot) and ‘Equal Rights And Justice For All’ (my celebration of habeas corpus, which always gets a laugh when I say live that no set is really complete without a song about habeas corpus). Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington and Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait Discuss Shaker Aamer and Closing Guantánamo with Cat Watters

Cat Watters, activist and broadcaster, and Debra Sweet of the World Can't Wait with blogger the Talking Dog and Todd Pierce, former military defense attorney in the military commissions at Guantanamo, outside the White House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Andy Worthington).Below is an interview I undertook with the New York-based activist Cat Watters, on her show Organic News, on Awake Radio, which took place just after the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was released and returned to the UK on October 30. Also on the show was my friend Debra Sweet, of the World Can’t Wait, who, every January, gets me over to the US for tours calling for the closure of Guantánamo, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the prison’s opening (see my last three visits here, here and here).

The main topic of discussion  of course, was Shaker’s release after a long, long campaign to secure his freedom, in which I played a part through the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched a year ago with the activist Joanne MacInnes.

Debra also spoke — about the prison-wide hunger strike in 2013 that did so much to remind the world of the prisoners’ plight, in which, of course, Shaker played a part, as I explained at the time — see here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Calls for the Closure of Guantánamo Outside the White House on January 11, 2015

Andy Worthington stands with the We Stand With Shaker poster at the protest against Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Medea Benjamin for Andy Worthington).January 11, 2015 was the 13th anniversary of the opening of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, and I traveled to the US to take part in protests in Washington D.C. on the anniversary, as well as in other locations in the US, as I have done since January 2011.

I’m currently nearing the end of the tour, in Massachusetts, with a final date tomorrow in Chicago, but in the meantime I’m delighted to make available, via Witness Against Torture (and YouTube) the video of the rousing speech I gave outside the White House on January 11.

I spoke about We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I launched with activist Joanne MacInnes in November, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and I also spoke about the 126 other men, calling for their release unless they are going to be tried — an outcome that only applies to around ten of the men still held. [Click on the photo to enlarge it]. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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