What’s happening in Portland should frighten us all. Trump sent in military force to rout peaceful demonstrators over the objections of the mayor and the governor. The men in uniforms used tear gas and carried weapons to disperse crowds. The uniforms bore no identification. They arrested people and shoved them into unmarked cars. Those who were carried away never learned of any charges against them. They beat up people who got in their way and fired percussion weapons to terrorize the locals.

Is this martial law? Is It a step toward fascism? Since when does the president have the authority to send troops to occupy American cities?

The legal scholar Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) tweeted:

This is how it begins. The dictatorial hunger for power is insatiable. If ever there was a time for peaceful civil disobedience, that time is upon us.

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times warned that it’s time to speak of fascism:

According to a lawsuit filed by Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, on Friday, federal agents “have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles” since at least last Tuesday. The protesters are neither arrested nor told why they’re being held.

There’s no way to know the affiliation of all the agents — they’ve been wearing military fatigues with patches that just say “Police” — but The Times reported that some of them are part of a specialized Border Patrol group “that normally is tasked with investigating drug smuggling organizations.”

The Trump administration has announced that it intends to send a similar force to other cities; on Monday, The Chicago Tribune reported on plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to Chicago. “I don’t need invitations by the state,” Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said on Fox News Monday, adding, “We’re going to do that whether they like us there or not.”

With his poll numbers sinking and the election a few months away, Trump has decided to send his armed forces into cities with Democratic mayors to “pacify” them. He said yesterday that Chicago would be next.

With the pandemic out of control, the economy teetering, demands for racial justice growing, Trump decided to change the subject and create a crisis.

“I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”

The president portrayed the nation’s cities as out of control. “Look at what’s going on — all run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left,” Mr. Trump said. He added: “If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”

At his inauguration in 2017, he spoke of “American carnage.” Now we understand that this was not a description of objective reality, but a prediction of what he would create as his legacy. He faces three genuine crises, which he prefers to ignore, because he doesn’t know what to do. Instead, he creates a crisis by sending in his troops—not the regular military, but forces from DHS and the Border Patrol—to occupy our nation’s cities. He thinks this will excite and please his base.

He has revealed the ugly face of fascism. This extra-legal, incendiary, authoritarian behavior cannot be tolerated. He will destroy our democracy.

He must be stopped. In the courts now, but ultimately at the ballot box, assuming he does not attempt to corrupt our elections.