Ted Wheeler, the Democratic mayor of Portland, was among a throng of protesters teargassed by federal agents Wednesday on another chaotic night of protests in the city that President Trump has called “worse than Afghanistan.”
It was the 56th consecutive night of demonstrations in Portland that began as a response to the police killing of George Floyd and have grown to include a raft of complaints, including some against Wheeler himself. The reason the mayor was there Wednesday, other than as part of his reelection battle against an opponent challenging him from the left, was to call for the agents — whom he called an “occupying force” — to leave town.
“They were not asked to be here. They’re not wanted here. They’re not properly trained to be here,” Wheeler told a crowd of protesters. “And we are asking them right this minute, we’re demanding that they leave. We demand that the federal government stop occupying our city.”
After speaking to the crowd and attempting to engage with individual protesters, many of whom were not happy to see him, Wheeler joined the front lines of the protest at a temporary fence erected around the federal courthouse. Before long, federal agents began firing nonlethal rounds and tear gas at protesters. Wheeler, in a disposable mask and goggles, was at the fence during the gassing.
“I’m not going to lie — it stings; it’s hard to breathe,” Wheeler said. “And I can tell you with 100 percent honesty, I saw nothing which provoked this response.”
Wheeler and his bodyguards spent roughly three hours at the protests, and for much of that time he was heckled by protesters, some of whom called his appearance a “photo op.” At various points during the night, Wheeler was called a “fucking fascist” and “Tear Gas Ted.” He was told to “quit” his job. When he attempted to speak to the crowd, a list of demands was projected onto the wall behind him. The final demand was for his resignation.
Wheeler, who also serves as the city’s police commissioner, has earned the nickname “Tear Gas Ted” because Portland’s own police force has used the irritant to disperse crowds in recent weeks. An hour after Wheeler left the protest, local police officers threatened that if the crowd didn’t disperse, they would do so again.