It's been almost a week since federal agents began detaining protestors in Portland, Oregon using reportedly unmarked vans, tear gas, and flash bangs. But what appears to be a dystopian horror show to most is apparently just "necessary," according to Republican Senator Tom Cotton. In fact, it seems that Sen. Cotton's every wish is finally coming true.
After penning a highly-rebuked New York Times op-ed where Cotton suggested that the only answer to ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations would be to "send in the troops," the Arkansas senator went on Fox and Friends this week to defend the government’s right to take protestors off the street to stop them from causing damage to "federal property."
The Fox segment, which included four white people discussing anti-racism protests in Portland, allowed Cotton to make a case for the armed law enforcement agents deployed by President Trump. Cotton went on to justify the President's tactics — despite local leadership demanding agents retreat — comparing demonstrators to the Confederacy. “The federal government cannot allow anarchists and insurrectionists to destroy federal courthouses, federal buildings or other federal property. These insurrectionists in the streets of Portland are little different from the insurrectionists who seceded from the Union in 1861 in South Carolina, and tried to take over Fort Sumter," Cotton said.
Fox aired footage of protestors using graffiti beside Cotton while he spoke, failing to show any actual violence (or the literal "Wall of Mom" surrounding the protestors). Instead, Cotton was given yet another platform to stoke fear and ignite violence in a city where protestors are being abducted and brutalized on camera.
But perhaps the most jarring part of Cotton's position is that these protests are comparable to the Confederacy. For context, Cotton is specifically referencing the first military engagement in the American Civil War. Cotton is comparing protestors, who are reportedly unarmed and exercising a legal right to demonstrate, to the Confederate Army, which incited a war in the South largely to defend in the United States.
Cotton's comparison to the battle at Fort Sumter is not only confusing and inaccurate, but highly volatile considering the subject of the Portland protests. At Fort Sumter, Confederate soldiers fired the first shots when federal troops refused to surrender, making it one of the bloodiest battles in American history. Not only is Cotton equating Black Lives Matter protestors to the Confederate state the promoted and preserved slavery, but he is suggesting that the "insurrectionists" came out of nowhere, effectively ignoring the fact that these protests started as a direct result of ongoing police brutality against Black people in America.
Both the governor of Oregon and the mayor of Portland have called for the Trump administration to withdraw federal agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection unit. "The Trump administration needs to stop playing politics with people's lives. We don't have a secret police in this country. This is not a dictatorship. And Trump needs to get his officers off the streets,” Governor Kate Brown told NPR. But President Donald Trump has stated he doesn’t regret sending them in and has plans to do the same in places like New York City, where protests have also been ongoing for nearly two months.
Senator Tom Cotton's segment — and perhaps his entire position when it comes to demonstrations — clearly promotes the idea that protestors need to be punished by any means necessary. It should come as little surprise for the Arkansas politician who has continued to peddle conservative values like banning abortion. But, it's also ironic that a person who has spent a good part of his career advocating as a pro-lifer is still willing to defend "federal properties" over human lives.