Portland Mayor: Rioters ‘Terrorizing Families With Children’

September 2, 2020 Updated: September 2, 2020

Portland Mayor and Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler said rioters who this week set fire to a business that’s part of an apartment building were engaging in criminal acts.

“Another minority-owned, local business was destroyed by a violent group of individuals. A police officer was filmed repeatedly striking an individual at a protest. Even the building where I live, along with dozens of other families, was violently attacked,” Wheeler said in a rare statement about the riots, which have continued nearly every night since May 28 in various parts of the city.

“These acts range from stupid, to dangerous, to criminal. The violence must stop. None of this should sit well with any thinking Portlander. Arson and terrorizing families with children does nothing except steal, and distract from, the important message of the racial justice movement,” he added.

Wheeler was supportive of the demonstrations despite the violence perpetrated by some involved through July. A turning point appeared to come in early August, when the mayor said rioters committed attempted murder when they tried to light a police precinct with people trapped inside on fire.

Wheeler and other city, county, and state officials have failed to quell the rioting. They have rebuffed offers from President Donald Trump for federal assistance.

“If you are participating in violence, I want to be clear: I denounce your actions. State and local law enforcement is working together to hold you accountable. Your actions demonstrate a level of hate and destruction that we WILL NOT condone or tolerate,” Wheeler said.

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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler appears at a demonstration outside the Multnomah County Justice Center in support of demonstrators, in Portland, Ore., on July 22, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Police Chief Chuck Lovell issued a statement saying officials have seen fires lit at occupied police precincts in recent weeks, as well as a police union office that’s “tucked into a residential neighborhood.”

Still, “last night marked yet another escalation of the senseless violence,” he said. “The families that live inside have done absolutely nothing to provoke a threat to their lives.”

Lovell pointed to the number of police officers required to respond to riots and linked that to rising crime in Portland.

“The nightly violence is coming at increased cost. It is not only that occupied buildings are being targeted. Gun violence is skyrocketing. Emergency calls for service are not being answered. This is impacting the safety of our entire City and urgent action is needed. Our elected officials need to do their part to draw a line in the sand and to hold people accountable. The violent behavior must end,” he said.

According to police officials, 911 calls have been placed on hold for hours on some nights because of the personnel tied up with riots.

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Portland police disperse a crowd after protesters set fire to the Portland Police Association (PPA) building early in the morning in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 29, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

The shooting death amid demonstrations over the weekend prompted statements from other commissioners who sit on the Portland City Council with Wheeler.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz urged “all sides—including the Portland Police—to change strategies.”

“Stop confronting each other, stop endangering lives, and inflicting harm. Ignore outsiders when they come seeking to attract attention and provoke indignation. Engage in meaningful dialogue,” she wrote.

“We must return the focus to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and the changes needed to end systemic racism evidenced in health, economic, education, police shootings, arrests, incarceration, housing and so many other outcomes where black, Indigenous and People of Color communities have been disadvantaged and oppressed for centuries. White supremacy must be overcome in 2020. That won’t happen by force, but by lasting reforms,” she added.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who has tried to pressure Wheeler into giving her control of the Portland Police Bureau, blamed the shooting on “inconsistent polices [sic] and messaging” from the bureau, claiming officers treat Black Lives Matter protesters different than those from rightwing groups.

Aaron Danielson
Aaron “Jay” Danielson in an undated photograph. He was shot dead in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 29, 2020. (Danielson family via AP)

A supporter of Patriot Prayer, a conservative group, was killed in the shooting. President Donald Trump told reporters in Maryland on Tuesday that the man, Aaron “Jay” Danielson,” was “executed,” the same wording a witness used.

“He was targeted. They targeted him. They shot him in the street, and then they were so happy, and he died. You don’t mention that,” he told reporters.

Hardesty said her office is working on a plan that would give her control of the police bureau as early as the end of September.

Deborah Kafoury, chair of the Board of Commissioners in Multnomah County, blamed the shooting on the groups that organized the pro-Trump rally.

“Last night, an event that was clearly intended to intimidate, provoke, and endanger individuals resulted in a fatality. The loss of life is tragic and unacceptable,” she wrote, adding, “We are witnessing the self-perpetuating cycle of violence fueled by white supremacy.”

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly didn’t issue a statement but shared Kafoury’s on Twitter.

City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero has not reacted to the shooting death. An inquiry sent to her email was blocked. Her last two tweets are about police misconduct.

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