After antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters fired mortars and other incendiary devices at federal law enforcement and at the federal courthouse in Portland for the 57th straight night of violent riots, Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) again blamed President Donald Trump for the unrest, attributing the violent to the president’s decision to send federal agents. He asked Trump to “stop terrorizing us” and to “stop destroying our community.” Wheeler should have addressed these pleas to the radical antifa and Black Lives Matter agitators. Instead, he joined them on Wednesday night.
“The president of the United States uses force and he uses it selectively based on the political affiliation of the people who are the elected leaders in those cities,” Wheeler said on Friday, referencing Trump’s plan to send federal agents to defend federal property in cities where Democratic mayors have refused to use law enforcement to restore order.
“That is a direct threat to Democracy, and we need to call it out for what it is. It’s dangerous, it’s unwarranted, it’s cynical, and it’s the cheapest of all political stunts.,” Wheeler declared.
The mayor then addressed a plea to the federal government, to President Trump.
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“All of us are saying to our federal government, stop terrorizing us. Stop putting us in danger. Stop destroying our community,” Wheeler declared. “And when we start to see this spread to other communities around the country, as we are,” he said he will speak out. “I believe the federal government will be forced to back down.”
The 57th night of Portland riots
Wheeler gave these remarks after Thursday marked the 57th straight night of riots in Portland. Portland Police reported that more than one thousand people gathered to block traffic in front of the Justice Center and federal courthouse that evening. At 11 p.m., rioters began setting fires inside the fence protecting the federal courthouse.
“Several other people were seen shaking the fence, launching projectiles over the fence, and using different tools to try and dissemble the fence. Several people breeched the fence and Federal Police Officers came out to disperse the crowd. As Federal Police Officers dispersed the group they were hit with large projectiles, various incendiaries, and flashed with lasers,” the police reported.
By 1 a.m., about two hundred people returned to the fence, continuing to set fires, cut and breach the fence, and launch commercial-grade fireworks towards the federal courthouse. While federal officers dispersed the crowd again, “several people remained in the streets around the area of the Federal Courthouse and engaged in violent and criminal behavior.”
Finally, at 1:58 a.m., Portland Police declared an unlawful assembly, instructing rioters to leave the area. “Many people stayed in the area and continued to light fires, and destruct federal courthouse property.”
As with so many of Portland Police’s reports on the riots recently, Friday morning’s report ended with the statements, “With the exception of the sound truck announcements, 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.”
Also on Friday, the Department of Justice reported that federal agents had arrested 18 rioters over the past week. The DOJ announced that the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Protective Service are jointly investigating the cases. U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy J. Williams and his office are prosecuting the cases.
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Wheeler’s misadventure with the Portland riots
On Wednesday, Wheeler joined the rioters, standing in solidarity with them and getting hit with tear gas, even as the rioters dumped trash in front of him, sprayed him with a leaf-blower, and pelted him with various objects.
As rioters lit a fire at the courthouse, 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.”
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.
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.
Wheeler may not like the presence of federal officers in his city, but antifa rioters are relentlessly attacking federal property there, and the officers have every right to defend that property when it is attacked.
With all due respect, Mr. Wheeler, Trump isn’t “terrorizing” Portland or “destroying” your community. Antifa rioters have been doing that for 57 straight nights, and you shamelessly joined their lawless actions for one of those nights. The federal response is more than warranted, and your shameless attempts to blame Trump for the riots are disgusting.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.