Portland Mayor Wheeler: 'Rioters and looters' are coopting moral movement to spead fear
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, speaking to the media Sunday, May 31, strongly denounced protesters who have committed acts of violence and caused millions of dollars in property damage during the two previous nights.
Speaking just hours after at least 48 people were arrested in the second round of violence, Wheeler said he was speaking directly to what he described as a small group of agitators and opportunists using the cover of legitimate grievances to spread fear.
"The cause has been coopted by rioters and looters to use the moral soul of this movement to destroy our communities," Wheeler said about what he deemed the legitimate outrage over the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
"This no longer feel like sincere mourning. It feels like blatant lawlessness and senseless violence."
Wheeler also extended the previous emergency curfew he had declared after the riot that broke out Friday evening and extended into Saturday morning. The new curfew will last from 8 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday. Violators are once again subject to arrest and a $500 fine.
Although hundreds of protesters ignored the first curfew, the crowds the second night were far smaller and caused less property damage and looting. Portland Fire & Rescue Division Chief Ryan Gillespie said firefighters responded to five structure fires, two vehicle fires, two dumpster fires and multiple injures overnight, far less than the responses on Friday night and Saturday morning.
Portland Police Chief Jamie Resch said law enforcement officers were better prepared to respond on the second night.
She said no one predicted that "several hundred" of those participating in early peaceful Friday demonstrators would riot downtown, despite the fact that destructive riots already had broken out in other American cities by then. in contrast, all officers were called to duty Saturday and other agencies provided staff, including the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and the Oregon State Police.
Bureau of Emergency Management Director Mike Myers described the scramble to respond to Friday's escalating first night of protests. Mayor Ted Wheeler was out of town meeting with his family to plan for the death of his mother. Fire Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty called Myers around midnight when she saw TV coverage of the spreading riot and then met him at the command center. Myers called the city attorney who began writing the emergency declaration for the curfew. Wheeler wanted it in his hand the moment he returned to Portland, Myers said.
Myers said that, until then, his bureau had been coordinating emergency assistance to this impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including proving food, rent assistance and personal protective equipment. It had been looking forward to helping the economy recover on June 12 after Multnomah County applies to the state for permission on June 5. By early Saturday, Myers said he was busy coordinating the boarding up of damaged businesses and the cleanup of city streets with contractors and other city bureaus.
Late in the press conference, Wheeler said damage estimates are still being prepared, but they include dozens of businesses and millions of dollars in losses.
"It is substantial," Wheeler said.
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