Following a night of violent clashes between the Portland Police Bureau and protesters in which officers deployed tear gas for hours, Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) wrote an open letter to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, admonishing him, as the police commissioner, for the bureau's repeated use of aggressive tactics against protesters.

Kotek lives in North Portland, where protesters against police violence marched Tuesday night. As they approached the headquarters of the Portland Police Association—the police union—officers deployed munitions, including tear gas. A series of violent clashes ensued along a neighborhood commercial district, with cops repeatedly charging demonstrators.

"What needed to be protected last night?" Kotek writes. "An empty office building? Was this need more important than the health of neighbors, of children in a neighborhood, of people returning home from work?"

Police arrested at least three journalists who were documenting the crackdown. Kotek also expressed alarm at those arrests.

Wheeler addressed Kotek's letter in a statement in which he expressed support for peaceful protesters.

"Peaceful rallies with thousands of people have brought this community together in new and transformational ways," Wheeler said in a statement. "We saw the speaker's statement and appreciate her input. We look forward to providing her a briefing so that she has the benefit of the same information our team—the sheriff, county chair, chief, mayor, district attorney, and district attorney-elect—is operating with."

Ron Herndon, the veteran civil rights leader and director of Albina Head Start, condemned the protesters who gathered outside of the police union headquarters Tuesday night.

"It has nothing to do with helping Black people. These hoodlums are needlessly scaring neighbors and their children," Herndon wrote in an email statement. "The cops have been called every name but a child of God. The police have shown more restraint than I could ever muster up."

Read the letter in its entirety:

Dear Mayor Wheeler,
The actions by police officers last night in North Portland were completely unacceptable.
Instead of managing the situation, they created an unsafe situation and a public health hazard with their use of CS gas, in a residential area (and near several gas stations, I might add). It was an unnecessary escalation by the PPB against people exercising their freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
It showed an utter inability to exercise restraint. Smart policing is when an officer can differentiate a minor provocation from a serious threat. Nothing about this was smart.
As the Police Commissioner, I implore you to take action to keep this from happening again.
From the reports I’ve read and from what I’ve heard from neighbors – counter to what the PPB is officially saying – there was no risk to the public or to officers until the PPB decided to declare an unlawful assembly to permit the use of and deploy crowd control devices. What needed to be protected last night? An empty office building? Was this need more important than the health of neighbors, of children in a neighborhood, of people returning home from work? The declaration of an “unlawful assembly” did not seem warranted. The declaration of a “riot” was an abuse of the statute. Therefore, the ensuing actions by the PPB were unlawful.
Furthermore, I continue to be disturbed that journalists and independent reporters are being targeted. These actions undermine our democracy.
What is the plan to keep peaceful protests from escalating into these kinds of incidents going forward? Protests will continue.
Lastly, what I’ve heard is that when police presence is minimal and does not provoke a response from protesters, things are calmer and people disperse on their own. Deescalation starts with not escalating in the first place.
I look forward to discussing this with you and Chief Lovell.
Thank you.
Speaker Kotek