Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler no stranger to protests, controversy: What to know
Over 200 people face off with two dozen police officers in Portland after the police department declared a riot and called for the crowd to disperse.
Portland, Ore., Mayor Ted Wheeler has made headlines for his rejection of federal assistance in dealing with massive protests in his city -- but while he has criticized the feds, the mayor has faced harsh scrutiny for his own approach to past unrest.
Wheeler has been mayor since 2017, after previously serving as Oregon’s state treasurer and chair of Multnomah County. As mayor, he also serves as police commissioner in Portland, and he came under fire roughly one year ago as he was accused of directing police not to take action against Antifa activists.
"To federal law enforcement: investigate & bring legal action against a Mayor who has, for political reasons, ordered his police officers to let citizens be attacked by domestic terrorists," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted at the time.
The criticism came following a June 29, 2019, protest that led to the violent assault of conservative journalist Andy Ngo.
Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner released a statement following the violent protest, blaming Wheeler for a lack of enforcement and saying the mayor must “remove the handcuffs from our officers and let them stop the violence through strong and swift enforcement action.”
Wheeler, however, denied he was responsible for the lack of policing at the protest. He insisted that he never told Portland police not to enforce certain laws, and claimed he explicitly asked to curb violence during protests.
Controversy over Wheeler’s approach to Antifa goes back further. In 2018, a viral video showed Antifa protesters blocking traffic and harassing drivers while police watched from a distance. At one point, activists pounded and broke the window of the car of a 74-year-old driver who turned against their wishes.
“I was appalled by what I saw in the video, but I support the Portland Police Bureau’s decision not to intervene,” Wheeler told reporters at a press conference after that incident.
Now, with protesters demonstrating in his city for six weeks following the death of George Floyd, the Department of Homeland Security has offered to help, but Wheeler bluntly rejected their aid.
“The best thing they can do is stay inside their building, or leave Portland altogether,” Wheeler tweeted Tuesday, accusing federal officials of using violent and “life-threatening tactics.”
Fox News’ Lukas Mikelionis, Danielle Wallace, Michael Ruiz, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.