Mayor Ted Wheeler was recovering Thursday after being teargassed while speaking with protesters around midnight near a federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon. No one has claimed responsibility for firing the canister at Wheeler and the crowd, but the mayor said protesters were not doing anything that would have warranted the action.
“It stings. It’s hard to breathe. I can tell you with 100% honesty I saw nothing that provoked this response,” Wheeler told the New York Times. “I’m not afraid but I am pissed off.”
Images and videos of Wheeler being teargassed with the crowd were shared online shortly after it occurred.
Wheeler said he went out earlier Wednesday evening to speak with demonstrators at one of the many Black Lives Matter protests that have persisted in the city for nearly two months. While he was booed early on, he assured the crowd he believed in their cause and he would continue pushing for reform within Portland’s justice system. He also took the chance to decry the presence of federal agents within the city.
“I want to thank the thousands of you who have come out to oppose the Trump administration’s occupation of this city,” Wheeler told the crowd, adding they shouldn’t accept the federal intervention. “We’re on the front line here in Portland.”
“I will absolutely do everything in my power to go get rid of the federal troops and to reform the Portland Police Bureau. We need to do both.”
Wheeler’s feelings aren’t exclusive, with other city and state officials voicing their opposition as well to the deployment of federal agents. Trump has said the agents are there to protect federal property, but protesters and officials have said their presence has heightened tensions. The Portland City Council unanimously passed two resolutions Wednesday “reaffirming the rights of the press and legal observers” during the protests and ending “all cooperation between the Portland Police Bureau and the federal occupiers.”
“I stand in solidarity with protesters defending Black lives, demanding racial justice, and the transformation of our justice system, but whether you agree with the protesters or not, if you believe in the Constitution of the United States, you must oppose the actions of this president and the violent suppression of individuals exercising their constitutional rights,” Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said in a press release.