Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland Republicans Want Crackdown On Protesters

Mayor demands tougher penalties for vandals as Multnomah GOP chairman accuses City Hall of coddling "Leftist criminal elements"

Black Bloc protesters came equipped with giant spiders. (William Gagan)

In the wake of a May Day march that the Portland Police Bureau declared a riot after Black Bloc members threw projectiles at officers and trashed a police vehicle, and the recent cancellation of a neighborhood parade following the receipt of a sole anonymous email threat, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and the Multnomah County Republican Party have come to agree on one thing: They are fed up with those meddling kids.

Wheeler told KATU-TV that he asked—or "directed," according to the news station—the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office "to pursue harsher charges and penalties for repeat offenders arrested at protests and riots." (The DA's office is an independent entity and does not answer to City Hall.)

Wheeler has been hounded by protesters at City Hall, and outside his own home, since taking office this year. He suggested light penalties had created a "revolving door" for perpetrators of violence and vandalism.

"There are people who are habitually engaged in vandalism or violence in our community. They shouldn't just walk scot-free," Wheeler told KATU. "They will be prosecuted."

The May Day rally and march was largely peaceful until a police loudspeaker announced the permit had been revoked and the march constituted an illegal gathering, at which point the few dozen Black Bloc in the thousand-strong crowd dispersed downtown and escalated their acts of vandalism.

Also today, James Buchal, chairman of the county Republicans, announced in a press release that the party was filing a public records request with the city requesting all communications regarding last Saturday's 82nd Avenue of Roses parade, which was supplanted by a bizarre "free speech" march attended by supporters of President Donald Trump and a number of far-right groups, including white supremacists, some from out of town.

"Portland Republicans cannot help but wonder," Buchal wrote, "whether the City is more interested in supporting the Leftist criminal elements who shut down the Parade and caused widespread property damage downtown, as opposed to supporting East County businesses and families who wanted to attend the Parade. Today we are filing a Public Records Act request with the Mayor's Office, the Portland Police, and the District Attorney's office to try and understand if this is really the case, and what on earth happened here."

Nationwide, the freedom of assembly has come under pressure from above, even as millions of Americans take to the streets to register their discontent with President Donald Trump.

Republican lawmakers around the country have introduced bills to crack down on protests, including measures to effectively legalize vehicular assault on protesters who block public roadways. Prosecutors in Washington, D.C., charged Black Bloc protesters (and a number of journalists) with felony rioting and additional charges after a limo was set ablaze during Donald Trump's inauguration, drawing condemnation from free speech and civil liberties advocates.

Wheeler, a Democrat, has stopped short of endorsing the Department of Homeland Security's characterization of Portland's window-smashing anti-Trump protesters as domestic terrorists, however.

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