A new report from Oregon Public Broadcasting appears to confirm earlier suspicions that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was considering ordering Portland police to “stand down” in the face of unrest and riots damaging the city’s downtown, leaving landmarks exposed to violence and destruction.
OPB reports that, in “late July,” as the protests were entering their second month and suspected anarchists were ramping up attacks on the city’s federal courthouse, Wheeler texted a top aide and suggested that Portland officials instruct the police to turn a blind eye to the demonstrations, thinking it would de-escalate the violence.
“In late July, Mayor Ted Wheeler had an idea he hoped would end the nightly clashes between protesters and police in Portland. He texted Sonia Schmanski, a top aide, that he had a plan that was ‘high risk,’ but he added that the city had ‘nothing to lose,'” according to OPB. “His idea: Tell his police force to stand down from the demonstrations.”
“It was a move protesters had urged for months, arguing that police decked in riot gear needlessly raised the tensions of the nightly protests. Wheeler told OPB he, too, had noticed a ‘calming deescalating effect’ on nights when police stayed out of sight,” the outlet noted.
Although OPB does not give a timeline for Wheeler’s decision, based on the outlet’s reporting, it appears to have come after the Department of Homeland Security pulled its elite Customs and Border Protection Agency force from downtown Portland, turning over the responsibility for protecting federal buildings and landmarks to the Oregon State Police and Portland Police Department.
On July 29th, DHS inked a deal with Oregon Governor Kate Brown to hand over riot control. Shortly afterward, demonstrations fizzled in the city’s downtown area, but protests in the city’s residential districts ramped up.
That change seems to have derailed Wheeler’s plans: “But the protests soon drifted to the east side of the city. And Wheeler said he was persuaded that the plan was too dicey as protesters began targeting police buildings near homes in residential neighborhoods.”
“I was persuaded that a complete withdrawal, even for one evening to test the ability to completely deescalate the situation, would be a risk that was too great,” Wheeler said. “We could not risk the people who were in the immediate vicinity.”
Since late July, the protests have continued to regularly devolve into riots, as homeowners in Portland’s residential neighborhoods endure late-night marches, lasers and lights, and even attempts to burn and destroy police-affiliated buildings located in quieter neighborhoods. As The Daily Wire has reported, leftists have stormed the suburbs with flaming flags, demanded residents leave their homes, and even rolled out a guillotine complete with a “teddy bear” — an effigy of the mayor himself.
Despite clear evidence that the strategy would backfire, Wheeler did note that a “stand-down order” is still on the table.
“We’re all considering all options,” he said. “The core objective here is to create a free and safe space to those people who want to express their First Amendment rights and to compartmentalize and deescalate the violence as much as possible and where it’s safe to do so arrest people and hold them accountable.”
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