Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Gets Tear Gassed Amid a Skeptical Crowd of Protesters

“Fortunately, somebody threw a water bottle at my head,” Wheeler said. “It was exactly what I needed.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler visits protests in downtown Portland. (Wesley Lapointe)

In a moment of political theater as dramatic and bizarre as any in recent Portland memory, the mayor was tear gassed tonight.

Federal agents deployed tear gas on protesters outside of the federal courthouse for the seventh consecutive night. The difference tonight: Mayor Ted Wheeler was in the crowd, standing along a fence erected outside the courthouse to prevent protesters from amassing at its doors.

That meant dozens of reporters and photographers—and a sardonic crowd of demonstrators chanting, "Fuck Ted Wheeler!"—watched the mayor cough, don clear plastic goggles, and give an interview to The New York Times.

"Fortunately, somebody threw a water bottle at my head," Wheeler said. "It was exactly what I needed."

He described the gas as "nasty stuff" and said he saw nothing from protesters that would provoke its use.

Wheeler, who has decried President Donald Trump's deployment of federal police into the city, said the experience redoubled his certainty they were overreaching.

Wheeler visited the protesters' standoff with federal agents Wednesday to hold a combination of speech and listening session at the Multnomah County Justice Center, during which he was repeatedly jeered. He then moved to the fence along the federal courthouse.

But the crowd of protesters grew more irate with Wheeler after the acrid chemical was released. Wheeler oversees a Portland Police Bureau that has itself repeatedly deployed tear gas over the past two months. "Fifty nights you've been doing that to your people, Ted!" someone shouted at Wheeler as he walked back to the Portland Building. Others yelled that his appearance was nothing more than a photo op.

Now both candidates for mayor on the November ballot have tasted tear gas: Wheeler's challenger, Sarah Iannarone, attends protests in the "Wall of Moms" every other night.

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