Mayor Ted Wheeler says repeated confrontations by protesters when he’s dining in Portland restaurants are something he’s come to expect—but not something he will accept.
“When somebody comes into a restaurant, shouting and screaming, knocking tables out of the way, that’s crossing a whole different line,” Wheeler tells WW. “And particularly, if I’m with my child, I just call B.S. on that. That is off-limits, and if push comes to shove, I will defend my child.”
Wheeler described that encounter in an interview on the Dive podcast by WW. He appeared to be describing a June 1 confrontation at Bamboo Sushi on Northwest 23rd Avenue initiated by a person who berated Wheeler for the Portland Police Bureau’s use of tear gas on protesters and bystanders.
That was at least the third showdown this year between Wheeler and an irate constituent. On one occasion, a person made physical contact with him in a restaurant tent; on another, the mayor pepper-sprayed a man who followed him to his car.
In a spirited interview, Wheeler claimed to be unperturbed by a groundswell of criticism of him and a recall campaign that could put his name back on ballots by the end of the year. “It’s not something that’s taking a lot of my time or my energy,” he said. “No elected official worth their salt isn’t being threatened with a recall.”
Among other highlights of the 20-minute conversation:
Wheeler says he shouldn’t be recalled because Portland is moving in the right direction. “The focus that I have is based on what the community is telling me the priorities are. Number 1, that’s improving safety in the community. Number 2, continuing to address the homeless crisis. And number 3, getting our city on the path towards economic recovery, including addressing livability issues like litter and graffiti. On every one of those fronts, we have programs, we have leadership, we have vision, and we have results.”
Wheeler defended the pace and scope of an inquiry into the leaking of a false allegation of a hit-and-run against Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “The wheels of justice turn slowly. We are in a very thorough investigation. And I’m speaking somewhat hypothetically at the moment: If I were to come out today and say here is the investigation, I could give you some insight of where we are today, but I also might jeopardize the possibility that it could be expanded. It would be very foolish of me or for the Police Bureau until all of those leads…have been thoroughly vetted.”
He says the Police Bureau handled 100 consecutive nights of protest fairly well but could have done better. “Let’s be clear on this point. I support people’s rights to demonstrate. And I’ve been crystal clear that I stand with those who stand for racial injustice and equity. I’ve also been equally clear that the Police Bureau needs to be responsive and accountable to the public that it serves.”