Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was caught in a confrontation over face masks last weekend and pepper-sprayed a constituent who reportedly accused the mayor of dining maskless in violation of city mask requirements.
“Wheeler and [former Portland mayor Sam] Adams had just finished dinner at the McMenamins Hillsdale Brewery & Public House on Southwest Sunset Boulevard around 8 p.m. when a man both described as middle-aged accused the current mayor of dining without a mask, according to a Portland Police Bureau report released Monday afternoon,” Oregon Live reported, adding that the man appeared to be recording the interaction with his phone.
When Wheeler attempted to explain himself — he’d eaten dinner in a tented, outdoor area of the restaurant where masks were not required — but the man followed Wheeler and Adams to Wheeler’s car, at which point Wheeler, concerned for his own safety, doused the man with pepper spray.
“He had no face mask on and got within a foot or two of my face while he was videoing me,” Wheeler told police, per Oregon Live. “I became imminently concerned for my personal safety.”
“I clearly informed him that he needed to back off. He did not do so I informed him that I was carrying pepper spray and that I would use it if he did not back off. He remained at close distance, I pulled out my pepper spray and I sprayed him in the eyes,” he continued.
Neither Wheeler nor Adams recognized the man. Wheeler did give the man water to wash out his eyes.
Oregon instituted a ban on maskless dining back in July, just after the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic ended, according to Eater magazine, but those requirements do not apply to so-called “outdoor indoor dining” — that is, tented areas outside restaurants designed to allow diners to eat in well-ventilated spaces where they are less likely to catch and transmit the novel coronavirus.
While a number of other left-leaning officials have skirted COVID-19 preventative measures — most notably, California Governor Gavin Newsom, who dined out at the French Laundry in Yountville, near Napa, ostensibly in violation of his own orders — Wheeler says he and his companion were obeying local regulations.
As for why Wheeler had pepper spray, he would not answer questions on the matter, but he likely keeps it for personal protection. Just two weeks ago, Wheeler was accosted by a group of “anti-fascist” demonstrators while waiting his turn to eat at a restaurant. One “member of the group started swatting at the Mayor and made physical contact with him,” according to Oregon Live.
Wheeler was also forced to flee his Portland condominium after anti-Fascist protesters, demanding that Wheeler defund Portland law enforcement and allow Portland’s nightly, riotous demonstrations to continue without police interference, targeted his condo building, and broke into his lobby, per Reuters.
Portland has been a central hub for anti-racism, anti-police, and “anti-Fascist” protests since May, following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. At one point, Portland played host to riots and near-riots for 100 nights straight.
That issue has not abated. As recently as last Wednesday, demonstrators rioted in downtown Portland, destroying a Democratic party headquarters in protest of now-President Joe Biden. Federal agents responded with tear gas and pepper balls when the protesters attacked and tried to breach an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility.
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