The mayor of Portland, Oregon, struck a new tone on April 23 as he called for residents to help “unmask” people behind the continued violence in the state’s largest city.
In his most urgent appeal yet, Mayor Ted Wheeler encouraged whoever has information about the self-described anarchists who are committing crimes in late-night riots to contact the police.
The rabble-rousers often show up to their so-called direct action events in cars. If anyone spots a license plate on one of the vehicles, they can give that information to the authorities, he said.
“Our job is to unmask them, arrest them, and prosecute them. I want to personally thank neighbors, family, friends, and others who have come forward with vital evidence. People know who these criminals are. They know what they’re up to,” Wheeler said during a virtual briefing.
The mayor also made it clear he wasn’t asking people to become violent.
“If you see somebody engaged in criminal activity, and you can safely film it or take a photograph, please do so. To be clear, we’re asking people to be engaged in a way that is nonconfrontational, that is nonviolent,” he said.
“I’m asking people to speak out against this criminal destruction and violence. I’m asking people to help if they can do so safely by providing evidence. And I’m asking them to come forward, if they know something, or they know somebody who is engaged in this kind of criminal distraction. I’m not asking people to physically defend themselves or defend their property. That is the purview of the police.”
Wheeler said that Black Lives Matter leaders have already denounced the anarchists.
Don’t Shoot Portland, which describes itself as a black-led human rights nonprofit, alleged that Wheeler “made a dangerous call to action to turn community members into vigilantes to defend property and ‘take back our city.'” The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon calls Wheeler’s comments “inappropriate, irresponsible, and dangerous.”
Portland has dealt with unrest—as riots have regularly taken place—since the spring of 2020. Some of the people who have committed crimes are members of the far-left, anarcho-communist Antifa network. Others have identified as Black Lives Matter activists.
A particularly troubling spate of property destruction and arson in recent weeks has prompted city and county officials to renew their focus on stopping the mayhem.
On one recent night, a crowd dressed in the “black bloc” clothing favored by Antifa members smashed windows at a number of establishments, including a Boys and Girls Club, a nonprofit that serves youth. The following evening, video footage showed a man punching a police sergeant in the face.
“We’re seeing a lot of the same people at these events night after night after night, and several people have been arrested now more than once for crimes ranging all the way from disorderly conduct to arson and even attempted murder,” Acting Police Chief Chris Davis told the briefing on April 23.
Schmidt’s office is reviewing cases prosecutors previously dismissed if the alleged wrongdoers are arrested again, Davis said.
A spokesman for Schmidt’s office told The Epoch Times via email that cases that involve “unusual and/or aggravating circumstances, such as multiple arrests” may trigger a second look at prior cases. “This is not a new practice for the District Attorney’s Office,” he added.
“These harmful and criminal acts do not align with our community values,” he said. “The First Amendment gives everyone the right to gather and to voice their opinions—whether we agree or overwhelmingly rebuke those beliefs. As district attorney, I will always defend a person’s right to free speech, but I will not defend nor support anyone who knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally destroys property or engages in violence.”
According to Wheeler, the mayor, the rioters don’t want things to improve in Portland.
“The city is beginning to recover, but self-described anarchists who engage in regular criminal destruction don’t want things to open up, to recover,” the Democrat said. “They want to prevent us from doing the work of making a better Portland for everyone. They want to burn, they want to bash,” he said, adding that he believes Portland is at a turning point because the groups of rioters are getting smaller, though they seem to be more determined.
Wheeler extended a state of emergency through April 26 amid concerns of continued unrest.
Later on April 23, a march that called for people to “bloc up!” began in the city’s northwest district neighborhood. About 75 people who had obscured their identities with all-black clothing, including face coverings, started smashing windows and forced their way into a tavern, police said.
One resident who filmed the riot had a rock thrown through his window. Rioters often harass or assault people filming, since the video footage can be used in criminal cases against them.
The group eventually dispersed. Two people were arrested.