City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Blames Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland Police Bureau for Federal Occupation

“Portland was never out of control. Portland’s police overreacted, which gave [Trump] permission to send in these troops.”

A Portland police officer and two other law enforcement officers patrolling protests along North Lombard Street. (Nikolai Ursin)

This post has been updated below with an apology from Hardesty.

On Wednesday, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty blamed the Portland Police Bureau and Mayor Ted Wheeler for exacerbating violence in Portland and effectively welcoming federal law enforcement agents to the city.

She also leveled an incendiary charge at Portland cops: Hardesty claimed it was they, not protesters, who had started fires around government buildings.

"Portland police have consistently lied to the public. They've lied to our congressional delegation about whether or not they were coordinating activities with this federal secret police force," Hardesty said during a webinar Wednesday hosted by Western States Center, which tracks extremism in the Pacific Northwest. "Portland was never out of control. Portland's police overreacted, which gave 45 [President Trump] permission to send in these troops."

Separately, during a Portland City Council meeting Wednesday, Hardesty said Wheeler "welcomed" the involvement of federal officers, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Rebecca Ellis. Hardesty said the Portland Police Association, the city's police union, had also welcomed the deployment of federal agents.

Her remarks are the latest step in a public fracture with Wheeler, who has counted on Hardesty as his ally as he seeks reelection. The two leaders worked together last month to produce a city budget that reduced police funding by $15 million.

But last week, she demanded he rein in the use of force by Portland officers or give her oversight of the bureau. On Monday, he refused. Now Hardesty is rebuking Wheeler in public meetings, even as she repeats her demand that he hand her control of the police.

Today, the City Council has able to agree on a resolution from Commissioner Chloe Eudaly that barred Portland police from coordinating with federal agents. Portland cops will be barred from clearing streets alongside the feds and from sharing information with them. The council also passed a second resolution by Eudaly banning Portland police from using force against journalists and legal observers.

During the webinar with Western States Center, Hardesty went on to say she doesn't believe Portland protesters have caused violence or started fires. Instead, she claimed, any such action was carried out by plainclothes police officers embedded in crowds of peaceful demonstrators.

"I absolutely believe that it is police action, and they are sending saboteurs and provocateurs into peaceful crowds so that they can justify their inhumane treatment of people who are standing up for their rights," Hardesty said. (She made a similar accusation at the City Council this morning, but specified that she believed Portland police were the saboteurs. She has not produced evidence supporting the allegations.)

Hardesty added that she has had to explain to city officials, including Wheeler, that it is not out of the realm of possibility for local police to collaborate with federal officers.

"We have an ignorance at the highest levels in our city government," Hardesty said, "people who just assumed that if the police said it happened, it really happened."

Wheeler's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association, issued a livid statement decrying Hardesty for saying police were acting as agents provocateurs.

"If Commissioner Hardesty has evidence of her outlandish accusation, she should immediately produce it," Turner said. "Of course, there is no such evidence. This is just one more example of Commissioner Hardesty putting her personal political agenda ahead of the best interests of the citizens of Portland."

Turner's statement did not directly address whether his union welcomes the presence of federal agents in Portland, and he did not respond to follow-up questions from WW.

Updated at 6:31 pm on July 22

On Wednesday evening, Hardesty issued a statement apologizing for her comments earlier in the day. Here is that statement:

"Today I let my emotions get the most of me during council and the comment I made to the press," Hardesty says. "But I'm angry, frustrated, and horrified by what has happened these past 50 days. I'm angry that even as a city commissioner, I am coming up against countless barriers from protecting protesting Portlanders from the deluge of tear gas, pepper spray, and other munitions on a nightly basis. Every night I am terrified that someone will be killed because of an officer's inability to d-escalate or walk away from a situation. Or my worst fear, that those that seek to discredit protests are helping initiate it.

"As a child of the Civil Rights movement, it is my experience—and those who studied history know this too—that in justice movements and mass protests, people have been sent to infiltrate these spaces to create incidents that justify enhanced police actions. Using unfounded claims and misinformation is something no one in any position of power should do, and you deserve better. I appreciate the reminder that as a public servant I need to be careful making statements out of misinformation, and I take this to heart. I hope this is something the Portland Police Bureau will also remember as they put out nightly statements regarding the protests, their conduct, and their involvement with federal officers, because we can all agree lives are on the line.

"We all have bad days but most of them don't happen publicly. I have always said we can disagree without being disagreeable, but today I did not meet that standard, and I'm sorry."

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