By JAMES CROXTON
Principal editing by Cory Elia
On April 23, Mayor Ted Wheeler, held a news conference regarding the ongoing “violence” and protests in the city. During the conference, the mayor called for what some saw as vigilantism and physical threats towards people in black bloc.
He did so in advance of a planned direct action march beginning at Couch Park the same evening.
Black bloc, for clarification, is a protest tactic that consists of wearing all black clothing from head to toe.
“Tonight, the anarchists have called for more destruction starting with a gathering at Couch Park,” Wheeler said, adding that, “I’ve directed the police bureau to arrest people engaged in illegal activity whenever they can safely do so tonight.”
Taking his threats further, he said “… these people often arrive at their so-called direct actions in cars— and they’re all dressed in all black. If you see this, call the police. If you can provide a license plate… that information can help later.”
Deputy Chief Chris Davis— who was sworn in on December 31, 2019— supported the mayor’s statements and reiterated them, albeit more specifically.
“If you see people engaged in suspicious activity around these events such as: handing out weapons or objects to throw, or getting out of cars near the area, changing into all black clothing, putting on body armor, helmets, similar things, you can report this to the non-emergency line,” Davis said. “Be sure to get licence plate numbers, descriptions, and anything else that helps us identify people involved.”
Both Wheeler’s and Davis’ comments, understandably, resulted in several questions from members of the press on the call— many of which seemed audibly concerned about them.
KXL Radio’s Jim Feretti asked for Mayor Wheeler to clarify his comments because, “there are some in Portland who could take this as a call to protect their property at all costs, including using firearms.” In his reply, Wheeler made it clear that he is calling for community members “to help when they can do so safely by providing evidence.”
In his response to KATU’s Kellee Azar’s question about the extension of the state of emergency order— that was installed just hours prior to former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict— Wheeler detailed the emergency powers he has access to.
“I was most interested in, when it comes to facilities, is the ability to close facilities that could include parking garages, or other areas, that give people some elevation advantage,” Wheeler said.
He added that the emergency powers give him the resources to barricade streets and coordinate between the City’s Bureau of Transportation, the Parks & Recreation Bureau, “and other bureaus that could come into play depending on circumstances.”
Nearly at the same time, Sam Adams, the former mayor from 2009 to 2012— and alleged sexual predator who lied about a previous sex scandal— who had been hired by Wheeler as Director of Strategic Innovations, went off on a tweet storm into the next morning.
It began when one person tweeted to Adams, asking because they’re in the restaurant industry, if wearing dark clothing would result in them getting the police called.
Adams quote-tweeted and replied, “No, not if you don’t light the County Courthouse on fire, before you drive home. Deal?”
The next morning, the former mayor continued.
One person who tweeted at him said, “There were police-involved shootings during _your_ administration and yet we are here several years later and PPB is still at it.” They added, “How have you, or Charlie, or even Ted moved social justice and police reform forward? It’s just more cops and a more punitive system.”
The former mayor replied and alleged that the Portland Police Association (the police’s union) detested him for “holding the police accountable for tough but fair firings.”
He continued with another tweet randomly suggesting that he had laundry to do and breakfast to make for his husband, Peter Zuckerman. He concluded by writing, “For me and my boss stopping crime AND police reform are mutually inclusive. Doing BOTH is [the] key reason I’m back to help.”
The same morning, Don’t Shoot PDX released an open letter condemning Wheeler’s remarks. They further compared them to rhetoric used by former-President Donald Trump and as a call-to-action for “Kyle Rittenhouse, Dylann Roof, and so many other privileged white supremacists that have used violence to reclaim their heritage, confidence and values.”
They concluded their statement with a call for Governor Kate Brown to intervene and said: “When Wheeler attempts to put communities against one another, his actions are vile, corrupt and indignant at a time that we’re all witnessing social change in America.”