Portland standoff with US agents ongoing after mayor gassed

Portland standoff with US agents ongoing after mayor gassed

PORTLAND, Ore. — The tense standoff between demonstrators and federal police dispatched to Portland, Oregon, dragged on Thursday after the city’s mayor was tear-gassed by U.S. government agents as he made an appearance outside a federal courthouse during raucous protests.

Mayor Ted Wheeler and hundreds of others Wednesday night were objecting to the presence of federal police sent by President Donald Trump, who labeled the demonstrators as “agitators & anarchists” after Wheeler was gassed.

Also, late Thursday a federal judge specifically blocked federal agents from arresting or using physical force against journalists and legal observers at the ongoing Portland protests. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

U.S. Judge Michael Simon previously ruled that journalists and legal observers are exempt from police orders requiring protesters to disperse once an unlawful assembly has been declared. Federal lawyers had said that journalists should have to leave when ordered.

“This order is a victory for the rule of law,” Jann Carson, ACLU of Oregon’s interim executive director, said in a statement.

A freelance photographer covering the protests for The Associated Press submitted an affidavit that he was beaten with batons, chemical irritants and hit with rubber bullets this week.

The ACLU lawsuit is one of several filed in response to law enforcement actions during the protests. The state of Oregon is seeking an order limiting federal agents’ arrest powers during the demonstrations.

On Wednesday night Wheeler, a Democrat, appeared slightly dazed and coughed and said it was the first time he’d been tear-gassed.

He put on a pair of goggles someone handed him and drank water but did not leave his spot at the front of the raging demonstration — with protesters lighting a large fire between protective fencing and the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse amid the pop-pop-pop sounds of the federal agents deploying tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the agents knew Wheeler, a 57-year-old sixth-generation Oregonian and longtime politician, was among those in crowd when they used the tear gas.

Earlier in the night, Wheeler was mostly jeered by protesters as he tried to rally the demonstrators who have clashed nightly with federal agents. But they briefly applauded when he shouted “Black Lives Matter” and pumped his fist in the air.

Trump in his tweet attempted to ridicule Wheeler, calling him the “Radical Left Mayor of Portland, who last night was booed & shouted out of existence by the agitators & anarchists.”

Wheeler has opposed federal agents’ presence in Oregon’s largest city but has also faced harsh criticism from the protesters, who yelled and swore at him.

Ignoring the pushback, Wheeler told those out gathered outside the courthouse that he wanted to “thank the thousands of you who have come out to oppose the Trump administration’s occupation of this city.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general said Thursday it will conduct a review of the conduct of federal agents who responded to unrest in Portland and in Washington, D.C., after concerns emerged from members of Congress and the public.

Wheeler has been accused by critics including city council members of not reining in local police who used tear gas multiple times on protesters before federal agents arrived early this month in response to nearly two months of nightly protests since George Floyd was killed. And city business leaders have condemned Wheeler for not bringing the situation under control before the agents showed up.

On Thursday, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the first Black woman elected to that role, said the arrival of federal agents had reignited protests that had been starting to die down after weeks.

“The reason why we have thousands of people on the street every night is because Portlanders are not going to set back when they see an injustice happening. They’re going to come and they’re going to stand on a line,” said Hardesty.

Hardesty also apologized for saying Wednesday that she believed police officers were setting fires to justify violence against protesters.

Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf denied that federal agents were inflaming the situation in Portland. He told “CBS This Morning” that Wheeler legitimized criminality in the city by going to the front of the crowd of demonstrators where the fires were lit and that people were trying to pull down a fence erected to shield the federal courthouse.

Wheeler did not participate in lighting any of the fires or attempting to tear down the fence and was surrounded by his security team when he was gassed.

Earlier, protesters held signs saying “Tear Gas Ted” in a reference to Wheeler and his leadership of the Portland Police Bureau, which used the substance on protesters before federal agents arrived in the city in early July. As Wheeler left the protest zone about 12:40 a.m. Thursday, one person shouted that he should be there “every single night.”

Less than an hour later, police said the crowd threw Molotov cocktails, lit fires in a park and in trash cans and released hundreds of gallons of water from fire hydrants. The police bureau in response declared that there was a riot at the site and threatened to use tear gas but officers never did and made no arrests.

Wheeler’s appearance in the protest zone came hours after state attorneys for Oregon urged a judge to issue a restraining order against agents deployed to tamp down on the protests.

The arguments came in a lawsuit filed by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who accused federal agents of arresting protesters without probable cause, whisking them away in unmarked cars and using excessive force. Federal authorities have disputed those allegations.

The lawsuit is part of the growing criticism of Trump’s order that sent the federal agents to Portland and pending orders for them to head to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to fight rising crime.

The court hearing focused on the actions of the more than 100 federal agents responding to protests outside the Portland courthouse.

The motion asks U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman to command agents from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol, Federal Protective Service and U.S. Marshals Service to immediately stop detaining protesters without probable cause, identify themselves and their agency before arresting anyone, and explain why an arrest is taking place.

___

Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus

Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Ma & Paws Pet Supplies. Facebook/ Ma & Paws Pet Supplies.
Rimbey residents petition for dog park

Request for approval of dog park will be brought up at Tuesday Oct. 27 Town Council meeting.

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. The Alberta government is hoping to get more Albertans employed by moving to limit the number and type of temporary foreign workers it allows into the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta to limit temporary foreign worker program to save jobs for Albertans

Temporary foreign workers already in the province won’t be affected

(Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred, Alta.

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Most Read