Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler wants to see the federal officers protecting property downtown refrain from spilling out onto the streets during the nightly protests against police brutality. But unlike other city leaders, he stopped short Monday of demanding they withdraw from Portland altogether or rebuking President Donald Trump for deploying them.
“I have no problem with the federal government and federal officers inside their facilities, protecting their facilities. That’s what they do. That’s what they always do,” Wheeler said Monday. “What I have a problem with is them leaving these facilities, going out onto the streets of this community and then escalating an already tense situation.”
The comments came during a press conference on rising gun violence in the city, during which Wheeler faced multiple questions about the behavior of officers the federal government has dispatched to protect federal buildings and personnel.
Wheeler emphasized multiple times that, as a mayor, he has no authority to dispel federal law enforcement, who are within their jurisdiction anywhere in the United States.
But this hasn't stopped mayors in other cities from making the demand. After Trump sent federal officers to quell protests in Washington D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser demanded Trump pull them back. In June, after Trump warned he would "take back" Seattle if the protests continued, Seattle's Mayor Jenny Durkan fired back that Trump should "go back to [his] bunker."
Since late June, Portland, Seattle, and Washington D.C. have now all seen federal officers dispatched to their cities to protect monuments and federal facilities, the AP has reported.
After clashes in Portland between the federal agents and protesters resulted in at least one serious injury Saturday night, many local leaders have condemned the presence of these officers. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty called on them to withdraw immediately. Commissioner Amanda Fritz issued a statement focused on what she called the president’s “utter contempt for human life” and said she found it no surprise that Trump was “fueling upheaval in Portland” by sending in federal officers.
Earlier on Monday, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden criticized Trump for "parachuting" federal law enforcement into cities "as if they're enemy strongholds requiring an occupying army to suppress."
Wheeler had issued a more muted statement Sunday evening. He said he was concerned the actions escalated tensions and called on officers from the federal government to adhere to the same restrictions around crowd control munitions that the Portland Police are bound by.
The statement came after the governor, both of Oregon's U.S. senators, and the three other members of the City Council had weighed in. Asked Monday why the statement took until the evening to arrive, Wheeler said he’d wanted to meet with the U.S. Attorney Billy Williams first for more information.
“I didn’t realize it was a race. I would prefer to be accurate and complete in my statement as opposed to being first,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that I had the opportunity to speak with the U.S. attorney in person; that happened late yesterday afternoon. I wanted to ask specifically about tactics as well as investigative follow up. I secured the answers to those questions. I then released my statement.”
“The facts matter for me,” he continued.
His office also added that the mayor’s leadership team had not been able to meet until early in the evening Sunday.
Wheeler said he had asked Williams to commit to a thorough investigation and to make that investigation public. He said Williams pledged to do both.
While Wheeler said he didn’t have an issue with the federal officers being in Portland for the purposes of guarding federal property, hours earlier Trump made remarks in a press conference hours where he painted a much larger role for what these officers should be doing in the city.
“We've done a great job in Portland. Portland was totally out of control,” the president said. “We very much quelled it and if it starts again, we'll quell it again very easily. It’s not hard to do if you know what you're doing.”