Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined the protests in Oregon’s largest city as demonstrators continued to clash with Department of Homeland Security forces deployed by the Trump administration near the federal courthouse.
It didn’t go well for Wheeler, who was hit by tear gas from the officers and jeered by the protesters. Demonstrators frustrated with his handling of the city’s police department and his belated show of support for the protests chanted “F*** Ted Wheeler” and called on him to resign. The protests have been occurring since late May following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Ted, you’re the mayor. You’re in charge. We’re fighting out here, and you’re not. … We need you to help us or get out of the way,” musician and activist Mac Smiff told Wheeler. “If you don’t, it’s going to be four more years of hell. It’s going to be four more years of this. We’re going to be out here every night.”
As Wheeler was being booed, he was also hit by tear gas.
“I’m not going to lie — it stings; it’s hard to breathe,” Wheeler, a Democrat, told the New York Times. “And I can tell you with 100 percent honesty, I saw nothing which provoked this response.
“A lot of these people hate my guts,” said Wheeler of the crowd, but he noted they were unified in their desire for the federal presence to withdraw, adding, “President Trump needs to focus on coronavirus and get his troops out of the city. My biggest fear is that somebody’s going to die. I want them to leave. This is going to come to a city near you if we don’t stop it.”
Wheeler is not the first local official to be teargassed by federal officers. Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran posted photos after she was among the demonstrators gassed over the weekend.
“I was there Saturday and Sunday, and the crowd was by and large very peaceful, chanting,” Meieran told Yahoo News. “And then out of the blue there was, the federal forces came out, and without any warning, without any discrimination of targets, just started throwing canisters of tear gas into the street.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Portland City Council passed a resolution barring the local police from coordinating with federal law enforcement, whose presence has been repudiated by everyone from city officials and the governor to the state’s congressional delegation and prominent national Democrats.