Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on Friday accused President Trump of abusing the use of federal law enforcement officers, whose presence he said has “ratcheted up the tension” rather than quelled the nightly violence taking place across the city.
“Last week, we were seeing the deescalation of the violence. We were seeing things calm down. But the intervention of federal officers reignited tensions,” Wheeler said Friday afternoon during a joint online press conference with Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell. “I think we would have seen the end of this nightly engagement by now.”
Protests and rioting in Portland have been nearly constant since the May 25 death of George Floyd that sparked national outrage and demonstrations across the country. On Tuesday, more than 200 people marched downtown for a mostly peaceful protest against police brutality, but some demonstrators who remain on the streets after dark have engaged in property destruction, throwing rocks at police, marking buildings with graffiti, and earlier this month briefly set a courthouse on fire.
As the violence continued, President Trump sent federal law enforcement agents to handle the situation, which he described as “out of control.” One demonstrator was critically injured and underwent facial reconstructive surgery after a federal officer fired an impact munition at his head, an incident that the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General is investigating.
Lovell appeared to suggest that city police officers are not coordinating with federal law enforcement as the local officers work to prevent crime and “establish order.”
“The federal officers have their objectives, and the Portland police has our objectives. We don’t direct federal officers’ actions, and they do not direct ours,” Lovell said Friday.
The president praised the work of federal authorities earlier this week at the White House, promising that the violence Portland would continue to be quelled.
“Portland was totally out of control, and they went in, and I guess we have many people right now in jail, and we very much quelled it, and if it starts again, we’ll quell it again very easily,” Trump said Monday. “It’s not hard to do, if you know what you’re doing.”
The city is now “demanding” that Trump remove the federal officers, Wheeler said.
“When we have Donald Trump sending troops into our streets who are not accountable to me or to the city council or to the public at large, we don’t know what they are doing or why they are doing it,” Wheeler said, calling the deployment of federal officers in Portland an “attack on our democracy.”
The mayor added that the president must be “held accountable,” for using federal agencies as his “personal army” for political purposes to “bolster his sagging polling data.”
“Take your troops out of Portland,” Wheeler said, directing his remarks to Trump. “We can handle better than they can what’s going on in our streets.”