Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler hasn’t been able to get the riot situation in his city under control in the three months since the death of George Floyd sparked protests across the nation.
In most cities, those protests have died down or been kept under control, usually because of some combination of effective city management and diminishing interest. Portland hasn’t particularly seen the latter and it definitely hasn’t seen the former.
Not that there isn’t plenty of blame to go around in the Oregonian metropolis, but the fish rots from the head; Wheeler is the head and the rot’s been happening for a while.
Portland has been the site of far-left protests for years, including one involving an intersection being blocked by demonstrators who surrounded a car and did $3,000 worth of damage.
This was in 2018, before that kind of destruction was considered A Thing, mind you; Wheeler said he supported the police’s decision not to intervene. During that time, the city also saw clashes between far-left and far-right groups which, again, no one in Portland officialdom could seem to get a handle on.
That was when things were going relatively well for America as a country. Now that things are a bit more problematic, Portland’s Democratic mayor clearly has little control over what’s happening in his city.
A federal courthouse has been under siege. Police have declared over a dozen riot situations over 90-odd straight days of protests. The situation in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is now being used as an excuse for more violent unrest.
President Donald Trump has offered to send in federal law enforcement to help quell the situation. He’s also used the city as an object lesson, saying in his Republican National Convention acceptance speech that the left wants to “make every city look like Democrat-run Portland, Oregon.”
Now, there are actually solid arguments against sending federal personnel into Portland. Kurt Schlichter — a staunch conservative if there ever was one, and a former Army colonel to boot — has a good Twitter thread about the numerous ways this could go wrong. The rules of engagement would be difficult to define, he says, plus housing and feeding whoever got sent to Portland would be a logistical nightmare — particularly with local contractors who might be unwilling to work with the federal forces.
None of these are bad points.
You may not be surprised that, when Wheeler sent Trump a letter declining the federal government’s help, he used none of them.
He did brag about his decision, though, by posting the letter to Twitter for all to see.
“Yet again, you said you offered to aid Portland by sending in federal law enforcement to our city,” Wheeler wrote in the Friday letter. “On behalf of the City of Portland: No thanks.
“We don’t need your politics of division and demagoguery. Portlanders are onto you. We have already seen your reckless disregard for human life in your bumbling response to the COVID pandemic. And we know you’ve reached the conclusion that images of violence or vandalism are your only ticket to reelection,” the letter continued.
At this point, this is just invective. We quickly get into lying:
“There is no place for looting, arson, or vandalism in our city,” Wheeler wrote.
“There is no room here for racist violence or those who wish to bring their ideology of hate into our community. Those who commit criminal acts will be apprehended and prosecuted under the law.”
It’s not just that the Portland Police Bureau hasn’t done much about this in recent weeks — it hasn’t done much about this in recent years. Again, there’s plenty of “place for looting, arson, or vandalism in our city.” City officials have allowed it to happen with minimal resistance.
When he talks about “racist violence or those who wish to bring their ideology of hate into our community,” he’s talking about the far-right groups his city hasn’t been able to control for years, along with the far-left groups they’ve clashed with.
And yes, you read those words correctly: “Those who commit criminal acts will be apprehended and prosecuted under the law.” If this were a court of law and you were President Trump, you could call for summary judgment at this point and win.
Furthermore, Wheeler said that when federal forces were sent to to guard the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, “you made the situation far worse.”
It’s unclear whether that’s the case, because the only reason they were there was that state and local law enforcement were making only the most desultory efforts to defend it.
If the federal personnel weren’t necessary to protect the courthouse, all that Portland police needed to do was their jobs. This would make federal presence seem like a ridiculous stunt, which is what Wheeler claims it was.
Yet almost every media report from the site proved how necessary the federal presence was, no matter how bad it may have looked.
Oh, and then this tell-off: “In Portland, we are focused on coming together as a community to solve the serious challenges we face due to systemic racism, a global pandemic and an economic recession,” he said in closing.
“Stay away, please.”
Sure. Do your job, please.
In the midst of another round of riots, Wheeler really wants to try the no-thanks-we’ve-got-this defense. He claims to believe the president has “reached the conclusion that images of violence or vandalism are your only ticket to reelection.”
It’s unclear whether or not federal forces in Portland are the answer — but if Mayor Wheeler believes this is the only way President Trump gets another term, this is basically an in-kind donation. He’s abandoned his residents to spike the ball on Trump.
Wheeler probably doesn’t believe most of this letter. He either inexplicably thinks everything is fine or knows accepting federal help is admitting defeat.
He doesn’t care about the logistical challenges. He doesn’t care about enforcing the law; his protestations to the contrary are belied by his city’s actions.
In short, he’s deluded, desperate or both. He’s abandoned his residents and is bragging about it on Twitter for anti-Trump points.