Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed by federal law enforcement on Wednesday night as he tried to show solidarity with protesters against the officers' presence in the Oregon city.
“It’s hard to breathe — it’s a little harder to breathe than I thought,” he told The Washington Post as he coughed and choked on the fumes outside a fence guarding the federal courthouse in downtown Portland. "This is abhorrent. This is beneath us."
"I'm not gonna lie, it stings. It's hard to breathe," Wheeler said while wearing lab goggles and a blue surgical mask in a video posted to Twitter.
Wheeler, a Democrat, said in the video that the use of tear was was an "egregious overreaction" by the federal officers, whose ranks were bolstered by President Donald Trump last week in an effort to restore order in Portland after nearly two months of protests and street violence.
- The mayor, along with Gov. Kate Brown, a fellow Democrat, and other state and local officials, has for days demanded Trump withdraw the officers.
- He has called them an "occupying force" and blamed them for the continuation of street violence that predated their arrival by nearly two months.
Many protesters, though, seemed unimpressed by Wheeler's words or by his display of self-sacrifice.
- Some taunted him about having been tear-gassed, shouting, "How does it feel, Teddy?" "Does it burn?" and "How can you let your people get gassed out here every night?"
Incredible scene. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler overcome with another volley of federal tear gas. pic.twitter.com/6eAsJX1pSx— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) July 23, 2020
Earlier in the day, Wheeler, who faces a primary challenge from his left, addressed the protesters from the steps of the Multnomah County Justice Center.
- "The reason I am here tonight is to stand with you no matter what," he said. "And if they launch the tear gas against you, they’re launching the tear gas against me!"
- Some cheered, but others expressed skepticism, according to news reports.
Wheeler was shouted down when he tried to denounce Trump's recent declaration that he will "surge" federal agents in other American cities experiencing spates of crime.
- Protesters demanded Wheeler oust the agents from their city and make sweeping reforms to the police.
- As the mayor moved through the crowd trying to talk with his constituents, he was repeatedly heckled, with chants breaking out of "Quit your job."
- The demands echoed a list posted on a wall of Justice Center.
After being tear-gassed, Wheeler said the experience had convinced him Portland police should no longer be allowed to use tear gas against rioters — a longstanding demand of activists.
- Wheeler made his way out of the protest about an hour later, escorted by a security team.
- As he walked through the crowd, footage shows protesters threw water bottles at him and scuffled with his guards.
Wheeler leaves the scene. Protesters throw water bottles at him and curse him. He manages to get inside a building after a scuffle between protesters and his security detail. pic.twitter.com/eRn2gWlpqm— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) July 23, 2020
- They ordered the activists to disperse, or risk being tear-gassed by them.