Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler rang in the New Year — and a new term — by pledging a tougher stance on people who commit violence and vandalism at demonstrations.
The mayor's office said Monday, Jan. 4, that staff were beginning to kick the protest-related proposals Wheeler first announced over the weekend into gear. These ideas include giving police more opportunities to videotape and "gather intelligence" on protesters, levying harsher penalties for demonstrators who have been charged with multiple protest-related crimes, and requesting that people who vandalize businesses meet with store owners. The mayor's office said Wheeler plans to meet with law enforcement as early as Friday, Jan. 8, to discuss how to move the proposal forward.
But while the mayor's office pledged a new approach to the property destruction that has accompanied some demonstrations, some civil rights advocates said they believe Wheeler's proposal would keep the city stuck on the same volatile trajectory, antagonizing protesters while failing to address their demands regarding racism and white supremacy.
"The mayor is just completely missing the point on this and is again putting us back in a position where we're just gonna continue the cycle over and over again," said Bobbin Singh, executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center. "We need leadership who can understand how to disrupt this cycle."
Over the weekend, the mayor made it clear he felt the demonstrations had strayed far from their racial justice roots. Following a New Year's Eve demonstration that saw protesters break windows, light small fires and throw fireworks at buildings, the mayor said the protesters, who he described as largely white and young, had acted at "the height of selfishness."
Oregon Public Broadcasting is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their complete story can be found here.
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