PORTLAND, Oregon, USA (Agencies) – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, fell victim to tear gas attacks by federal forces on Wednesday night against demonstrators objecting, among other things, the presence of agents sent by Donald Trump.
The mayor said it was the first time this had happened to him, and he seemed to be slightly dazed and coughing as he put on a pair of goggles that someone gave him. But he did not leave his post on the front line and continued to be gassed. The protest was fanned around Wheeler outside the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, to the sound of tear gas canisters and stun grenades thrown by federal agents.
Wheeler gets booed
Moments earlier, many booed Wheeler as he rallies the protesters who have clashed daily with federal agents, but he received a brief round of applause when he shouted “Black Lives Matter” and raised his fist high. The mayor has opposed the presence of government forces in Oregon’s main city, but he faced harsh criticism from many sides, and his presence was not welcomed by many, who shouted and insulted him.
“I want to thank the thousands of you who have opposed the occupation of this city by the Trump government,” Wheeler said in front of hundreds of people downtown near the federal courthouse. “The reason this is important is that it’s not just happening in Portland … Here we are on the front lines.”
A situation out of control
Some residents, including city council members, have accused Wheeler of failing to control the local police, who used tear gas several times before the arrival of federal agents earlier this month in response to nearly two months of nighttime protests over the murder of George Floyd. Others, including business leaders, criticized him for failing to control the situation before the arrival of federal troops.
Earlier Wednesday, the City Council prohibited police from cooperating with federal authorities in arresting reporters or legal observers.
A lawsuit against federal forces
On Wednesday night, Wheeler’s appearance came hours after city attorneys urged a judge to issue a restraining order against officers deployed to quell the protests.
The state and U.S. government’s arguments were included in a lawsuit filed by Oregon Justice Secretary Ellen Rosenblum, who accused federal agents of arresting protesters without probable cause, driving them away in unmarked cars and using excessive force. Federal authorities disputed these accusations.
The lawsuit is part of a growing rejection of Trump’s decision to send federal agents to Portland and to announce that they will go to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to fight rising crime, a move that is deepening the country’s political divide and opening up a potential constitutional crisis just months before the presidential election. Democratic mayors from 15 cities condemned the use of federal agents in a letter to the attorney general.