First they came: When a warning becomes a confession

Federal Agents who may actually be contractors ​(Conroy)​ on the orders of an acting Director of Homeland Security whose authority may not be legal ​(Blake)​ have tear-gassed mothers engaged in peaceful protest in Portland ​(Breem)​.

It’s time to revisit the poem First They Came. This time, we are not reading it as a warning, we are reading it as it was written. We’e reading it as a confession.

Our government did not start with tear gas and rubber bullets in our streets. Just as the Communists and Trade Unionists were more sympathetic targets for totalitarianism than the Lutheran pastor who wrote the poem, we did not stop our government when it targeted those less mainstream then suburban moms.

This path started before the Trump administration took office with the militarization of our police. When the government disbursed Standing Rock protestors with rubber bullets and water cannons used in below-freezing weather injuring more than 300 ​(Carrie Wong)​, we did not stop them there.

When the Trump administration attacked immigrants, explicitly directing the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to help the victims of “immigration crime engagement” ​(Nakamura)​as he equated a whole class of people as lawless. We did not stop them there.

The Trump Administration made official US policy to torture asylum-seeking families through separation ​(Physicians for Human Rights)​. We did not stop them there.

In DC, when the President called in Federal agents to clear protesters and parishioners out of a churchyard for a photo op ​(Colvin and Supperville)​, we didn’t stop him there.

So. Here we are.


  1. Blake, Aaron. “Trump’s Portland Crackdown Is Controversial. The Man Spearheading It Might Be Doing so Illegally.” Washington Post, 22 July 2020, Trump’s Portland crackdown is controversial. The man spearheading it might be doing so illegally.
  2. Breem, Kerry. “‘Wall of Moms’ at Portland Protests on Getting Tear-Gassed: ‘We Held the Line.’” Yahoo! News, 21 July 2020,
  3. Carrie Wong, Julia. “  This Article Is More than 3 Years Old Dakota Access Pipeline: 300 Protesters Injured after Police Use Water Cannons.” The Guardian, 21 Nov. 2016,
  4. Colvin, Jill, and Darlene Supperville. “Https://Apnews.Com/15be4e293cdebe72c10304fe0ec668e4 Click to Copy RELATED TOPICS AP Top News Religion General News Politics Donald Trump Tear Gas, Threats for Protesters before Trump Visits Church.” AP News, 1 June 2020,
  5. Conroy, Bill. “The Lead Federal Agency Responding to Protesters in Portland Employs Thousands of Private Contractors.” Medium, 22 July 2022,
  6. Nakamura, David. “Trump Calls for Creation of Office to Support Victims of Crimes by Illegal Immigrants.” Washington Post, 28 Feb. 2017,
  7. Physicians for Human Rights. “Asylum-Seeking Families Separated by U.S. Government Experienced Torture, PHR Concludes in New Investigation.” Physicians for Human Rights, 25 Feb. 2020,

Author: Kevin

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