Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler admitted Friday that his lenient approach to anarchists and Antifa leftists had not worked and that the city will “push back harder” against them following another riot on New Year’s Eve.
“My good faith efforts at de-escalation have been met with ongoing violence and even scorn from radical Antifa and anarchists,” Wheeler told reporters during a news conference, KOIN reported.
“In response, it will be necessary to use additional tools and push the limits of the tools we already have to bring the criminal destruction and violence to an end,” he added.
Portland has been a hotbed of anarchist violence for months following the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis in May. Since then, demonstrations — most culminating in police-declared riots — have occurred in the city on a near-daily basis, pausing only briefly following last month’s presidential election.
The Portland Police Bureau announced via Twitter that its officers were assaulted, including attacks involving commercial-grade fireworks and firebombs.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said that rioters smashed windows, started fires, and looted several businesses downtown in addition to assaulting officers and attempting to break into the Justice Center.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese spoke about the new year's eve riot in downtown Portland where antifa ransacked and looted businesses, started fires, assaulted responding law enforcement, and tried to break into the Justice Center. pic.twitter.com/1iutoyagup
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) January 2, 2021
Officers pushed back on the rioters using tear gas, pepper spray, and what appeared to be rubber bullets.
But after several months’ worth of similar violence that has included murder on city streets, Wheeler appears to have had enough.
“Lawlessness and anarchy come at great expense and great risk to the future of our community,” he said. “It’s time to push back harder against those who are set on destroying our community, and take more risks fighting lawlessness.”
He also blasted the demographics of most of the rioters who say they are fighting for racial justice.
“Why would a group of largely white, young, and some middle-aged men destroy the livelihood of others who are struggling to get by?” he asked, calling it the “height of selfishness.”
He added that it is difficult for him and others “to accept the reality that there are just some people on this planet who are bent on criminal destruction; that there are some people who truly just want to watch the world burn.”
Still, Wheeler was widely mocked on social media for his sudden change of heart after refusing for months to crack down on the violence, including turning down repeated offers from President Donald Trump of federal law enforcement assistance.
Democrats before the election:
“Antifa is just a myth. It doesn’t exist”
Democrats after the election:
“We need stronger methods to deal with radical Anita members”
Again. More hypocrisy!
— Mr. Medina 🇺🇸 (@thatonemedina) January 2, 2021
All the businesses that were destroyed, and residents that were harassed, assaulted and/or suffered damages, should sue the sh*t out of @tedwheeler.
— sarainitaly 🎃🌶☕ (@sarainitaly) January 2, 2021
When you appease criminals to try to “get along”, they see your weakness, and take over. Peace through strength, not peace though weakness.
— ImNamedJames (@ImNamedJames) January 2, 2021
Nevertheless, Wheeler also discussed stepped-up enforcement actions including tougher penalties for rioting and looting and requiring them to do community service as well as meet the owners of businesses they helped destroy.
That’s a change from over the summer. In July, Wheeler said that his primary concern was “the violence federal officers brought to our streets in recent days, and the life-threatening tactics [Trump’s] agents use.”
“We do not need or want their help,” he added, which was echoed by Gov. Kate Brown (D) and the state’s largely Democratic congressional delegation.
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