On Wednesday night, Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) joined antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters as they massed to attack the federal courthouse for the 55th straight night of violent riots. Rioters threw Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices at the courthouse, setting part of it on fire. Federal law enforcement responded by trying to break up the crowd, using tear gas and hitting Wheeler himself with tear gas twice. Asked about the confrontation afterward, Wheeler said he was “p**sed off” and claimed that he saw “nothing that provoked this response.”
According to Portland Police, more than one thousand people gathered outside the Justice Center and the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, blocking traffic for several hours. At around 9:15 p.m., Wheeler spoke to the crowd. While he spoke, rioters chanted and set off fireworks.
After Wheeler finished addressing the crowd around 10:30 p.m., rioters threw flares and other incendiary devices over the fence that protects the west side of the courthouse. They continued to lob flammable material and incendiary devices over the fence for about 45 minutes, starting a large fire.
Some rioters breached the fence while others kicked and shook at it. Federal officers left the building in order to disperse the crowd.
While the timeline remains unclear, it appears that federal agents hit Wheeler with tear gas at about this time, gassing the mayor twice. As the fire grew, Wheeler told The New York Times‘ Mike Baker that the use of tear gas was an “egregious overreaction” and that he “saw nothing that provoked this response.”
“I can tell you with 100 percent honesty, I saw nothing that provoked this response,” the mayor insisted. “This is an egregious overreaction on the part of the federal officers. There was nothing that I saw that warranted this overreaction. … This is not a de-escalation strategy. This is flat-out urban warfare and it’s being brought on the people of this country by the president of the United States and it’s got to stop now.”
Antifa Rioters Break Into Portland Police Union and Set It on Fire as Mayor Hamstrings Federal Troops
Moments before Wheeler gave these remarks, a rioter chucked something at him. A few minutes before Wheeler got hit with tear gas, the Times’ Mike Baker captured video of rioters shooting fireworks at the courthouse. If Baker was able to capture this video just before he captured the moment when Wheeler got hit with tear gas, the mayor must have known that incendiary devices like fireworks had been shot off at the courthouse. In other words, he knew there had been more than enough to “provoke” the federal response.
Wheeler certainly demonstrated bravery in going to the front lines of the rioters, but he should not have been surprised when federal officers responded to blatant arson attacks with an attempt to disperse the riot using tear gas. The antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters are the ones truly responsible for the “urban warfare” in Portland — not Trump, who sent federal officers more than a month after the nightly riots began — and now Wheeler has identified himself with them, joining their lawless actions.
The mayor eventually left, getting safely escorted out by his security team. Rioters attempted to pelt him with water bottles and cursed him.
The violence and arson did not end when Wheeler left. At around 12:24 a.m., a large animated group of rioters remained at the fence surrounding the courthouse. One rioter got around the fence and threw a flaming item into the building.
At 12:31 a.m., Portland Police declared a riot, issued public address announcements urging the rioters to leave the area. Most of the group did not leave.
“Over the next several hours, people continued to congregate near the fence outside of the Federal Courthouse. During this time, Molotov Cocktails were thrown at the federal building, along with hundreds of projectiles,” the police reported. “There were multiple fires lit by the crowd in the area surrounding the courthouse to include the heavily wooded areas in the parks and trash receptacles on neighboring blocks. Multiple vandalisms occurred including fire hydrants which were opened wasting several hundred gallons of water into the street. At least one assault was reported.”
At the bottom of the police report, local law enforcement wrote these horrifying words: “With the exception of the sound truck, Portland Police were not present during any of the activity described. Portland Police did not engage with any crowds and did not deploy any CS gas. No arrests were made by Portland Police.”
As mayor, Wheeler also serves as the police commissioner. It seems he is directing local law enforcement not to step up in the midst of these violent riots. Meanwhile, he demands that federal law enforcement leave, saying the officers who are doing the hard work trying to prevent the rioters from burning down the federal courthouse are “not welcome.”
Wheeler — who is apparently willfully blind to any arson directed at federal buildings — insisted that he “saw nothing that provoked this response.” Nothing at all — just your garden-variety peaceful protest with “peaceful” Molotov cocktails flying everywhere, “peaceful” rioters hurling hundreds of objects at the courthouse, and “peaceful” fireworks set off with the intention of burning down the building.
Perhaps the mayor of Portland is taking his cues from Nikole Hannah-Jones, the founder of The New York Times‘ “1619 Project.” Hannah-Jones notoriously declared that attacks against property do not count as “violence.”
“Violence is when an agent of the state kneels on a man’s neck,” she insisted. “Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violent.”
Setting courthouses on fire is inherently violent, however, and it puts people’s lives in danger. Perhaps Wheeler and Nikole Hannah-Jones think the lives of federal officers do not matter or that laws protecting federal property are “not laws” or something, but none of that justifies Wheeler’s Orwellian declaration that setting off fireworks and shooting incendiary devices at a federal courthouse is not enough to “provoke” a tear-gas response.
Perhaps tragically for the apparently pro-antifa mayor, the rioters did not consider him an “ally.” When “The Man” entered the protest crowd, one activist ran right up in front of him and ceremoniously dropped a bag of trash right in front of Mr. Wheeler.
The crowd booed when Wheeler said he wouldn’t abolish the police. As the mayor spoke, the rioters projected a list of demands above his head.
The tragedy of Ted Wheeler illustrates why it is foolish for elected officials to support, cover for, or join the violent angry antifa mob. Even when an elected official listens to the rioters, stands in solidarity with them, and gets hit with tear gas, the mob will still demonize him because he is “The Man” and he doesn’t support the most absurd parts of their radical agenda.
Mobs are not rational, and Democrats cannot appease them simply by covering for their violence and insisting that the “protesters” are nothing but “peaceful” little angels. This experience should make Ted Wheeler exceedingly grateful for the federal officers Trump sent — and it should leave him demanding more help from the federal government.
Instead, Wheeler again attempted to blame Trump for the violence, saying the “flat-out urban warfare” Portland has experienced for 55 nights straight is “being brought on the people of this country by the president of the United States.” Nothing could be further from the truth, but it seems Mr. Wheeler is intentionally blind to the violence before his very eyes.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.