How Rene Gonzalez Would Respond to a Fresh Round of Anti-Trump Unrest

“I’m not gonna go down and get tear-gassed,” Gonzalez said. Watch his full remarks.

NOT MY PRESIDENT: A Portland protest against newly elected President Donald Trump in 2016. (Joe Michael Riedl)

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is eligible to appear on ballots or is disqualified because he encouraged an insurrection. The Oregon Supreme Court is weighing the same question, with a decision expected later this month.

Should Trump qualify for ballots in Oregon and nationwide, no Republican candidate appears capable of defeating him in the primary. And some national polls show President Joe Biden, whose approval rating is 39%, trailing Trump in a head-to-head rematch.

All of which summons an increasingly plausible scenario: What if Donald Trump is elected president on the same day Portland elects a new government?

Portland protests during Trump’s presidency—and his efforts to quash them—played a significant role in the city’s decline over the past decade.

A new round, should it occur, would follow the election of a new mayor and 12-member City Council next Nov. 5. The immediate responsibility for crowd control would fall to incumbent Mayor Ted Wheeler, but the fallout of any civil unrest would become the first challenge for officials freshly elected to a new form of government Portlanders approved last fall.

That prospect is particularly germane to the mayoral campaign of City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez, who, along with his council colleague Commissioner Mingus Mapps, is running to succeed Wheeler. The winner will take office in January 2025.

Since defeating incumbent Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in 2020, Gonzalez has become the council member least aligned with Portland’s progressive activists, who are likely to take to the streets in the event of a Trump victory.

So when Gonzalez visited WW for an interview last month, we asked him how he would handle street protests differently from how Wheeler handled them following George Floyd’s murder in 2020.

“I’m not gonna go down and get tear-gassed,” Gonzalez replied, referring to Wheeler’s July 22, 2020, photo opportunity in front of the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse.

Gonzalez said he shared Wheeler’s initial sympathy for the marches that followed Floyd’s murder. “But there was a point, as that summer goes on, where we’re now dealing with multiple days of riots,” he said. “It took too long to call that what it was, and that’s a riot. This is no longer someone just exercising their First Amendment rights.

“Having gone through that,” Gonzalez added, “that shift will come much sooner for me.”

The conversation about possible Trump protests continued for about six minutes. Watch the whole of Gonzalez’s remarks in the video below.

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