Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler failed to win over a crowd of angry anti-police protesters despite rooting for their cause. But rather than seeing him as an ally against federal agents, some said he’s part of the problem and has to go.
Nightly protests in Portland focused around a downtown federal courthouse have been raging for over 50 nights. The confrontations regularly escalate into rioting, and have become more volatile since the Trump administration deployed additional federal law enforcement agents to the city last week. Mayor Wheeler, who has been sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter cause, criticized the federal agents for using controversial tactics in their crackdown.
On Wednesday night, the mayor appeared before an angry crowd of around 2,000 demonstrators, who gathered behind a large fence erected around the courthouse to keep them away from the building. The reception was lukewarm at best from the start. Some people shouted, “Quit your job” as he walked towards the center of the rally, while one protester emptied a bag of trash under his feet.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is entering the protest crowd right now. People are already confronting him. pic.twitter.com/H7uJSGYlma
Wheeler held a “listening session,” answering questions from the crowd, though some angry activists called him a racist and “Fed Wheeler,” saying he didn’t deserve to be heard by them. The mayor expressed his dislike of crow-control munitions, which the law enforcement officers have routinely used against the protesters, and said his office was seeking legal ways to oust the agents from the city, while encouraging the people to continue what they’re doing.
However, despite calls from the activists, he refused to abolish the Portland Police Bureau, which he heads as commissioner. As he was speaking, somebody projected a list of demands on the wall behind his back, one of which said “You, Ted Wheeler, need to resign.”
This is being projected above Wheeler: Theodore, fancy seeing you here. These are our demands: defund PPB by 50% at least and reinvest into the communities, especially the Black community Free all protesters from jailFeds out of Portland nowYou Ted Wheeler need to resign pic.twitter.com/nvIYZQfbpH
Later, the mayor moved to the steps of the nearby Justice Center to address the rally in a speech. “The reason I am here tonight is to stand with you,” Wheeler said. “So, if they’re launching the tear gas against you, they’re launching the tear gas against me.”
Some people cheered, while others remained unconvinced, asking the mayor what took him so long to show up, or simply shouted invectives at him.
Ted Wheeler is leaving after the crowd grew restless. People screaming “Fuck you Ted” and “You’re full of shit” as he departs pic.twitter.com/0hlqgAA7uy
Meanwhile, half a block away, protesters rattled the fence protecting the federal courthouse and lit fires as federal officers inside the building responded with tear gas.
Feds “Do not attempt to damage the fence”Protestors: 🔥 pic.twitter.com/a1mQAYegBg
Wheeler, wearing a mask and protective goggles, delivered on his promise to personally face the federal response. He called it an “egregious overreaction” and “urban warfare.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says the tear gas stings. Says egregious overreaction from feds. Calls it urban warfare. pic.twitter.com/hrRICiNGHn
As he was leaving the scene, some protesters continued to throw water and curse at him.
The mayor left, protesters weren’t that welcoming, but it’s also day 55 and you really gotta put in the days before you get first bumper being out here pic.twitter.com/gH2QhFZqgs
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