| 10.6°C Dublin

US protest: Mayor faces heckles and federal tear gas attack

Close

Taking a stand: Ted Wheeler, mayor of Portland, Oregon suffers ill-effects as US federal agents, sent in by President Donald Trump, deploy tear gas. PHOTO: NATHAN HOWARD/GETTY

Taking a stand: Ted Wheeler, mayor of Portland, Oregon suffers ill-effects as US federal agents, sent in by President Donald Trump, deploy tear gas. PHOTO: NATHAN HOWARD/GETTY

Taking a stand: Ted Wheeler, mayor of Portland, Oregon suffers ill-effects as US federal agents, sent in by President Donald Trump, deploy tear gas. PHOTO: NATHAN HOWARD/GETTY

Mayor Ted Wheeler choked on tear gas as he stood outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, where federal agents set off explosives and fired chemicals into a crowd of hundreds.

The Democratic mayor pressed a hand over his nose and mouth, already covered by a blue surgical mask, as a thick cloud of gas surged toward him. He had strapped on goggles to help protect his eyes, but still, the mayor said, his face burned. "It's hard to breathe - it's a little harder to breathe than I thought," Mr Wheeler. "This is abhorrent. This is beneath us."

As Mr Wheeler stood at the fence, he was heckled. Some demonstrators called for his resignation. Others, who had been tear-gassed by the Portland Police Bureau over the past eight weeks, shouted questions at the mayor.

"How does that taste?"

"Does it burn?"

"How can you let your people get gassed out here every night?"

Mr Wheeler had come to the protest, he said, to stand with protesters in the face of what he has described as an "occupying force" - federal agents who were deployed by President Donald Trump to restore order to a city that the president has described as "worse than Afghanistan".

For days, Mr Wheeler, Democratic state governor Kate Brown and other officials have demanded that Mr Trump withdraw the surge of federal officers from Portland, where ongoing protests have continued nightly for more than 50 days. But little has changed.

The demonstrations began in Portland in late May, following the death George Floyd, a black man, in police custody in Minneapolis.

Videos of federal officers pelting protesters with rubber bullets and exploding pepper balls, shooting tear gas into city streets and launching stun grenades into crowds have captured millions of views on social media.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

"The reason I am here tonight is to stand with you no matter what," Mr Wheeler had said earlier on Wednesday night to a roar of cheers from the steps of the Multnomah County Justice Center. "And if they launch the tear gas against you, they're launching the tear gas against me!"

But many in the crowd didn't believe him. They shook their heads and muttered words like "photo op". One young man shouted, "You're only saying that because CNN is here."

For hours before Mr Wheeler's brush with chemical irritants, the mayor tried to talk with protesters. On the wall of the justice centre behind him, activists had displayed a list of demands. The last demand on the list, which included defunding the Portland Police Bureau by 50pc and expelling federal forces from the city, was for Mr Wheeler to resign.

© Washington Post


Most Watched





Privacy