Even before Ted Wheeler arrived at Wednesday night’s protest, the chants came in, emerging through beating drums and collective claps.
“Fuck Ted Wheeler!”
As he reiterated his talking points on CNN about the federal presence in Portland: “Fuck Ted Wheeler!”
As he talked about the Portland Street Response team, a first-responders program spearheaded by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty: “Fuck Ted Wheeler!”
As he made his way toward the steps of the Multnomah County Justice Center to speak to hundreds of Portlanders who, for more than 50 days, have taken to the streets of downtown to protest racial injustice and demand police reform: “Fuck Ted Wheeler!”
The mayor took questions Wednesday night from the public for more than two hours, answering everything from whether he will resign (no) to if he’ll give control of the Portland Police Bureau to Hardesty as she demanded (no plans to do that at this time) to whether he will abolish PPB (no). Urged to speak to more people, Wheeler moved from the corner of SW Third and Madison to the front of the Justice Center. There, he was pressed more by protesters on defunding PPB and how he might remove the federal officers from Portland, the latter of which still seems unclear.
Later, Wheeler stood alongside protesters near a steel barricade around the Mark O. Hatfield US Courthouse where he was enveloped in tear gas himself. Wheeler was asked by protesters how it felt. Between coughs and sips of water he said it was “nasty stuff.”
Afterward, trailed by aggravated protesters, some of whom were throwing water bottles and decrying his appearance as a photo op and political theater, Wheeler slipped into the Portland Building, after which PPB declared the night’s gathering a riot.