Mayor: Most protests aren't violent, city isn't 'lawless'
Portland played host to more than 200 protests and political demonstrations last year, but only a small fraction turned violent.
That's according to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, speaking during a 30-minute press conference on Monday, July 8. They were his first public remarks since a slew of three local rallies devolved into ugly street fighting on June 29, grabbing international attention.
Noting the "global shellacking" and deluge of death threats sent to his office, the mayor pushed back against what he deemed a misinformation campaign circulating about the Rose City.
"I want to address the perception that Portland is somehow a lawless city," Wheeler said. "People who live here, people who know Portland, know that is simply not true."
He then laid some of the blame on the president of the Portland Police Association, Daryl Turner, who sent out a July 1 news release calling on Wheeler to "remove the handcuffs from our officers." The claim was widely repeated online, and was sometimes attributed directly to the Portland Police Bureau, rather than the rank-and-file union Turner represents.
"He crossed a line," Wheeler said of Turner.
Saying he wants lots of options on the table, Wheeler declined to explicitly endorse the proposal floated on July 3 by Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, who called for a law making it illegal to wear a mask while committing crimes. Outlaw also suggested changes to a law that prevents authorities from filming a political rally unless a crime is occurring.
Instead, Wheeler announced plans to seek input from business leaders, civil rights advocates and the community at large as he mulls new strategies to address protest violence, which he said was less prevalent now than when he took office two-and-a-half years ago.
"I don't believe Chief Outlaw and I are in a position to singularly or independently resolve this question without the community," Wheeler said.
The Portland Police Bureau is preparing an after-action report regarding the June 29 demonstration that should be completed within 10 days. Wheeler said he held a "brainstorming" session with Billy J. Williams, the U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, as well.
The mayor and his advisers may not have much time to implement new ideas, whatever they may be. The right-wing Proud Boys already have set the date for their next demonstration here on Saturday, Aug. 17 — an event sure to draw a swarm of counter-protesters.
But here's one idea that won't be revisited: Wheeler's protest safety ordinance, which was voted down by the City Council 3-2 last year. Wheeler says the votes haven't changed.
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, one of the no votes, sat silently in the audience during much of the press conference.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.