The mayor of Portland was tear-gassed by federal agents late Wednesday during another night of protest against the presence of those agents, sent by President Donald Trump to quell unrest in the city.
Mayor Ted Wheeler appeared slightly dazed. He pulled down his mask and wiped his face, then took a drink of water and put on a pair of goggles someone handed him. He didn’t leave his spot at the front of the protest, however, and continued to take gas.
Around Wheeler, the protest raged, with demonstrators lighting a large fire in front of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse and the pop-pop-pop of federal agents deploying tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the federal agents knew Wheeler was in the crowd when they used the tear gas.
Earlier in the night, Wheeler was mostly jeered as he tried to rally demonstrators who have clashed nightly with federal agents but was briefly applauded when he shouted “Black Lives Matter” and pumped his fist in the air. The mayor has opposed federal agents’ presence in Oregon’s largest city, but he has faced harsh criticism from many sides, and his presence wasn’t welcomed by many, who yelled and swore at him.
“I want to thank the thousands of you who have come out to oppose the Trump administration’s occupation of this city,” Wheeler told hundreds of people gathered downtown near the federal courthouse. “The reason this is important is it is not just happening in Portland. … We’re on the front line here in Portland.”
Some Portland residents, including City Council members, have accused Wheeler of not reining in local police, who have used tear gas multiple times before federal agents arrived early this month in response to nearly two months of nightly protests since George Floyd was killed. Others, including business leaders, have condemned Wheeler for not bringing the situation under control before the agents showed up.
Protesters in the crowd held signs aloft that read “Tear Gas Ted” in reference to the Portland Police Bureau’s use of the substance before federal agents arrived. When the mayor left the protest, around 12:40 a.m., some protesters surrounded him and shouted angrily at him as he walked away. One person shouted, “You’ve got to be here every single night!”
Wheeler then addressed the much larger crowd from a raised balcony, saying, “I am here tonight to stand with you.”Earlier Wednesday, the City Council banned police from cooperating with federal agents or arresting reporters or legal observers.
Wheeler, a 57-year-old Democrat, has been the city’s mayor since 2017 and before that was Oregon’s state treasurer. The heir of a timber family, he holds degrees from Stanford, Columbia and Harvard.
His tense nighttime appearance downtown came hours after attorneys for Oregon urged a judge to issue a restraining order against agents deployed to quell the protests.
The arguments from the state and the U.S. government came in a lawsuit filed by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who accuses federal agents of arresting protesters without probable cause, whisking them away in unmarked cars and using excessive force. Federal authorities have disputed those allegations.
The lawsuit is part of the growing pushback to Trump sending federal agents to Portland and announcing they would be going to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to fight rising crime, a move that’s deepening the country’s political divide and potentially setting up a constitutional crisis months ahead of the presidential election. Democratic mayors of 15 cities condemned the use of federal officers in a letter to the U.S. attorney general.
The lawsuit is one of several filed over authorities’ response to the Portland protests. On Thursday, a judge will hear arguments in a legal challenge that the American Civil Liberties Union filed on behalf of journalists and legal observers who say they were targeted and attacked by Portland police while documenting demonstrations.
A freelance photographer covering the protests for The Associated Press submitted an affidavit that he was beaten with batons, chemical irritants and hit with rubber bullets.
A U.S. judge previously ruled that journalists and legal observers are exempt from police orders requiring protesters to disperse once an unlawful assembly has been declared. Federal lawyers say that journalists should have to leave when ordered.
The ACLU filed another lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of volunteer medics who have been attending to injured protesters. It alleges that federal agents have used rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, batons and stun grenades against medics in violation of federal protections for freedom of speech and freedom of movement.