When some of the protesters and potential rioters showed up in downtown Portland, Oregon last night holding signs reading “Tear Gas Ted,” I’m pretty sure they were assigning that nickname to Mayor Wheeler, not issuing instructions to law enforcement. But the DHS officers deployed to protect the federal courthouse may have taken their signage seriously. In the wee hours of this morning, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was indeed tear-gassed by the feds while he stood at the front of the mob challenging the barrier erected around the courthouse. From the sound of things, he handled the gas pretty well. Unfortunately, most of the mob charging the fence didn’t seem to like Wheeler any more than they liked the federal officers behind it. (Associated Press)
The mayor of Portland, Oregon, was tear gassed by the U.S. government late Wednesday as he stood at a fence guarding a federal courthouse during another night of protest against the presence of federal agents sent by President Donald Trump to quell unrest in the city.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, said it was the first time he’d been tear gassed and appeared slightly dazed and coughed as he put on a pair of goggles someone handed him and drank water. He didn’t leave his spot at the front, however, and continued to take gas. Around Wheeler, the protest raged, with demonstrators lighting a large fire in the space between the fence and the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse and the pop-pop-pop of federal agents deploying tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the federal agents knew Wheeler was in the crowd when they used the tear gas.
So did the DHS officers know that it was Wheeler at the front of the crowd when they broke out the tear gas and non-lethal munitions? Nobody seems to know. But as long as he was one of the crowd trying to knock down the barriers protecting the federal courthouse it doesn’t really matter. At that point he was just another resident of Portland, threatening to damage the building and the officers were charged with protecting it from the mob. You know the old saying about making omelets, right? Sometimes you have to crack a few eggs.
The entire evening didn’t go very well for Wheeler by all accounts. Long before he wound up being gassed, Wheeler had attempted to address the crowd, acting like he was just another member of the protests, if not their self-appointed leader. But as the AP reports, most of the people out in the streets were jeering him. As I mentioned above, some of them were holding up posters displaying a picture of the Mayor with the words “Tear Gas Ted.” That’s because his own police have been deploying tear gas on a regular basis to break up the mobs. (Click on picture for full-size image.)
Another marcher held a sign saying “Ted has never been gassed and it shows.” (They’ll probably have to ditch that one for tonight’s riots, sadly.) People could be heard screaming at the Mayor, telling him that he needs to “be out here every night” if he wants to be taken seriously about supporting their efforts.
Whether or not Wheeler’s ruse will succeed remains to be seen, but what he’s attempting to do is rather obvious. This is a strategy that was recently predicted by Erick Erickson. With federal officers guarding the courthouse, Wheeler is trying to deflect criticism of his own administration and shift the blame (and the anger) toward President Trump and the federal government. When he first arrived on the scene, he grabbed a bullhorn and said, “I want to thank the thousands of you who have come out to oppose the Trump administration’s occupation of this city,”
Audible laughter could be heard from the crowd at that point. Most of them were there to protest Wheeler and the Portland Police Department, holding signs indicating precisely that message. True, a few of them wanted to go after the federal buildings (and DHS officers) as well, but it’s not as if they’d forgotten why they’ve been out in the streets for the past couple of months. But if Wheeler keeps up this schtick long enough and the national media goes along with it (as they already are), he might actually succeed in shifting public perceptions a bit, as if the feds are to blame for the misbehavior of a relative handful of cops around the country.
Does anyone have any predictions as to what Wheeler’s next performance will entail? He already got himself tear-gassed on the first night. To up the ante at this point, he’ll probably need to either get himself arrested tonight or beaten down with some riot shields and batons. Do they have any holding cells in the Portland federal courthouse? Perhaps they could – dare I say it – lock him up?