City Council splits on police response to protests
The City Council split Wednesday over the Portland Police Bureau's response to the nightly protests, with commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Jo Ann Hardesty calling for an immediate ban on tear gas to break up groups of demonstrators.
Mayor Ted Wheeler opened the regular Wednesday meeting by saying he was committed to working with the community to achieve the changes demanded by those peacefully protesting the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Although Wheeler said he wanted the community to hold him and the council accountable, he did not make any specific proposals before asking the other council members if they wanted to comment.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz deferred, thanking Wheeler and Hardesty for their leadership, and saying she would post a statement on her website later in the day.
But Eudaly started out by saying she was "horrified" by the actions of the police she had seen on TV, saying officers had randomly thrown tear gas into groups of demonstrators as they moved through the streets. Eudaly said tear gas was banned by the Geneva Convention and could cause respiratory problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It is sadistic to be using tear gas in the middle of a public health crisis. It's attacking people's respiratory symptoms," said Eudaly, who called the protests a "beautiful thing, an uprising" and "a day of reckoning."
Hardesty began by saying the protests were also about Portland police killings of local African-Americans, including Quanice Hayes, Kendra James, Keaton Otis, Aaron Campbell, and too many more to name. Hardesty agreed with banning the use of tear gas, and also said she would be asking the other members of the council to abolish the bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team, School Resource Officers, and Transit Police. She and Wheeler had agreed to review these and other specialized bureau units in coming months when approving the budget that takes effect on July 1.
Hardesty also criticized what she called a "small group of people intent on damaging" the city and its values during the otherwise peaceful protests.
Mayor Wheeler did not respond to Eudaly and Hardesty, instead moving onto the agenda when they finished talking.
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