How Would It Begin? The Early Signs of Totalitarianism
One day some nonviolent protesters against police brutality are walking together down a city center street near their encampment. They have not broken any federal laws but are suspected of being anarchists. The state, county and local police have not issued warrants for their arrest or for the arrest of their comrades. They authorities have chosen to let them camp out downtown and exercise their right to free speech. A few among them have acted out violently against property downtown and they have been arrested and arrest warrants are out for them. But the state, county and local police and the governor and mayor have decided to let things cool down before swooping in to make arrests or disperse the protesters’ encampments.
Suddenly the young men and women on the sidewalk are stopped by camouflage-wearing, masked men who jump out of rented vans and force them inside the vans. The vans speed off. Bystanders are left wondering what has just happened. It happens again. And again. When the governor and mayor demand answers a head of a federal police force confesses that the agents may have been under his command and that the federal police agency charged with protecting the country from terrorist attacks believes the state, county and local officials are incapable of handling the situation.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
The young protesters are not publicly charged with any crimes; they simply disappear into a secretive federal detention system presumably to appear before a secret court set up to deal with terrorists domestic and foreign. The secret court has the power to detain suspected terrorists without charges indefinitely. The detained protesters are never allowed to have attorneys and their cases are not made public. They just disappear.
The governor and mayor loudly protest this as a violation of state and local justice systems and laws. They are brushed aside and ignored by the federal government.
For all intents and purposes the young protesters are simply “disappeared”—no one knows where they were taken or what happened to them. Fear grips the city. Attempts are made to spread the news about what is happening. The national news media ignore it. Nobody can explain why.
Where did this happen? In Chile and Argentina and other places in Latin America in the 1980s.
In a distant country many people cried out against those countries’ federal governments. Documentaries and movies are made about “The Disappeared.”
Inside those countries, however, most people—including journalists—are too afraid to speak out or believe these illegal actions are justified by the threat of anarchy and/or communism.
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