Wheeler decries protest killing, blames Trump
Mayor Ted Wheeler joined the chorus blaming President Donald Trump on Sunday for the Aug. 29 protest-related killing in downtown Portland.
Speaking at an afternoon press conference after a man wearing right-wing emblems was killed during political clashes Saturday night, Wheeler repeatedly accused Trump of stoking racial fears to divide the country since running for president.
"Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence?" Wheeler said. "It's you who have created the hate and the division."
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury made similar statements earlier in the day.
Wheeler said the community must come together to collectively prevent future violence.
"Today we need to decide who we are and where we want to go from here," Wheeler said. "Don't let this be the spark that sets off an acceleration of hostilities in our beautiful city. Those are not our values."
Although police have not identified the victim, Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson told the Associated Press that the man who was killed was a supporter and friend. Wheeler told people promising to come to Portland for "retribution" on social media to stay home and allow the Portland Police Bureau to investigate and solve the crime.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Police Chief Chuck Lovell also spoke at the press conference. Schmidt criticized Trump while promising to prosecute the suspect who reportedly shot the victim in the chest during a heated argument. Lovell steered clear of politics and urged anyone with information on the shooting to contact the bureau.
The extraordinary press conference took place after more than 90 days and nights of protest against systemic racism and police violence in Portland since the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in the custody of Minneapolis police. Wheeler, Schmidt and Lovell all said they support the peaceful protests but criticized those that turn violent, usually late at night outside law enforcement and criminal justice facilities.
Wheeler has refused additional federal help to manage the protests. He again told Trump to stay away from Portland. Instead, he offered to work with him to end the violence.
"Wouldn't that be a message?" Wheeler said. "Donald Trump and Ted Wheeler working together to help move this country forward. Why don't we try that?"
Trump was apparently watching the press conference. In real time, he responded on Twitter: "Ted Wheeler, the wacky Radical Left Do Nothing Mayor of Portland, who has watched great death and destruction of his City during his tenure, thinks this lawless situation should go on forever. Wrong! Portland will never recover with a fool for a Mayor."
Lovell said the bureau had relatively little information about the caravan before it headed to Portland — and tried but failed to keep it out of downtown.
"We tried to take precautionary measures to keep them out of the downtown area. The goal was to keep them on I-5," Lovell said. "But later, a group of those vehicles was able to come into the downtown core."
In response to questions from reporters, Wheeler said he will not resign and has no plans to assign the bureau to Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, a police critic, at this time.
Saturday night's killing happened after a caravan of vehicles carrying Trump backers traveled from Clackamas County to downtown, in large part to show their support for the besieged law enforcement agencies. Although there were numerous clashes between the Trump supporters and counter-protesters, Lovell said the killing happened after the caravan had left downtown.
Oregon Public Broadcasting is a news partner of the Portland Tribune and continued to this story. Their story can be found here.
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