Mayor Ted Wheeler minced no words in his opening remarks at a New Year's Day news conference following a riot on New Year's Eve in downtown Portland.
Wheeler laid out the "who, what, when, where and why" of what happened Thursday, Dec. 31, when the Multnomah County Justice Center, U.S. Courthouse and numerous businesses came under attack.
"The who: violent antifa and anarchists," Wheeler said, explaining they rampaged through downtown Portland causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage with commercial fireworks aimed at buildings, broken windows, fires in the street and graffiti.
"Why? This is the hardest question of all to answer," Wheeler said. "Why would a group of largely white, young and some middle-age men destroy the livelihood of others who are struggling to get by?"
Wheeler, who described himself as a caring and honest person, then said, "It is hard for me to accept that there are some people who are just bent on destruction."
The mayor said he's been in contact with Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and wants more prosecutions and everyone held accountable. He also called for additional steps to end the ongoing violence:
• A meeting with "federal, state, county and local law enforcement" as early as next week to deal with anarchist violence.
• New laws approved by the 2021 Oregon Legislature to increase penalties for repeat offenders of protest-related violence. "I believe people convicted of criminal destruction must be required to meet with those whose businesses they damaged, and be required to do public service."
• New laws to ease restrictions on surveillance of those planning and participating in violent protests.
Also speaking at the news conference on his first day was new Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who spoke about the violence that is distracting from the goal of eliminating injustices against Black men like himself.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese spoke about the specific "challenges" that unfolded during the riot, and Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell reiterated that, noting that the bureau was understaffed on a very active New Year's Eve.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found here.
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