Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler promises to crack down on Antifa following New Year’s Eve riot
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) seems to be having a change of heart after the Antifa-fueled riot on New Year’s Eve. He is angrily promising to “push back harder” against anarchists and Antifa radicals, admitting that months-long efforts to stem the violence have failed.
“My good faith efforts at de-escalation have been met with ongoing violence and even scorn from radical Antifa and anarchists,” Wheeler said during a Friday news conference. “In response, it will be necessary to use additional tools and push the limits of the tools we already have to bring the criminal destruction and violence to an end.”
This came in response to the New Year’s Eve riot near the downtown courthouse, which was the focus of months of violent disturbances last summer. Police said approximately 100 radicals on Thursday night threw at least two Molotov cocktail-style firebombs at cops and launched commercial-grade fireworks at the courthouse.
These same violent protesters smashed windows and set fires in the area and police began using pepper spray or mace against the crowd, as well as what appeared to be rubber bullets or pepper balls.
Projectiles from the crowd were thrown at law enforcement. The variety of projectiles included large rocks, bricks, and frozen water bottles. Paint balloons were aimed at some officers. Police said the balloons may have been laced with a caustic substance since it caused burning to the skin. Some law enforcement officers suffered injuries.
Violence first emerged in Portland on a regular basis seven months ago. After night after night of chaos, Wheeler is stating that it is time to take further steps to quell the violence.
“Lawlessness and anarchy come at great expense and great risk to the future of our community,” he said. “It’s time to push back harder against those who are set on destroying our community, and take more risks fighting lawlessness.”
“The who: violent Antifa and anarchists,” the mayor said. They rampaged through downtown Portland causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage with spray painting, window breaking, fires and fireworks.
The demographics of the protesters was also referenced by Wheeler.
“Why would a group of largely white, young and some middle-age men destroy the livelihood of others who are struggling to get by?” he asked, before calling it the “height of selfishness.”
A gathering in downtown Portland has devolved into a riot. Participants have thrown multiple firebombs at officers and launched commercial grade fireworks at the Federal Courthouse and Justice Center.
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) January 1, 2021
Wheeler admitted that it was difficult for him and others “to accept the reality that there are just some people on this planet who are bent on criminal destruction; that there are some people who truly just want to watch the world burn.”
He is advocating tougher penalties for rioting, as well as requiring offenders to do public service and meet the owners of the businesses they damaged.
Violence and chaos sparked again in Portland last summer after the death of George Floyd by police officers in Minnesota. Wheeler, however, focused on the federal law enforcement officers sent in by the Trump administration, accusing them of exacerbating tensions.
In his new year's presser, Portland Mayor @tedwheeler admits that his efforts to de-escalate & compromise with antifa have failed to yield results. He condemns the violent extremist movement by name & calls for more to be done. https://t.co/1MJhHOxO1u pic.twitter.com/HtsSSM3dzz
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) January 2, 2021
In July, Wheeler stated that his immediate concern was “the violence federal officers brought to our streets in recent days, and the life-threatening tactics his agents use.”
“We do not need or want their help,” he said. The state’s governor and congressional delegation all concurred.
Wheeler joined with protesters outside the courthouse and tried to conduct a “listening session” before being hit by tear gas deployed by federal agents.
Some are blasting Wheeler’s refusal to back some of their demands such as abolishing the Portland Police Bureau.
“F— Ted Wheeler!” one protester shouted. “He doesn’t get to speak, he’s a f—ing fascist.”
Wheeler barely won against a radical left-wing challenger in November. He has continued to wrestle with trouble from anarchists and Antifa violence.
In December, he authorized police to use “all lawful means” in ending an illegal occupation at a home in the city, in which Antifa protesters tried to declare an autonomous zone.
“There will be no autonomous zone in Portland,” Wheeler emphatically stated.