Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler came under fire over a viral video showing antifa protesters blocking traffic and harassing drivers, but he says he supports the decision by police to watch from a distance without getting involved.
“I was appalled by what I saw in the video, but I support the Portland Police Bureau’s decision not to intervene,” he said at a press conference. “This whole incident will be investigated.”
The video posted by journalist Andy C. Ngo showed protesters, including members of antifa and Black Lives Matter, blocking an intersection and attempting to direct traffic at while officers on motorcycle watched from a block away.
At one point, the activists chased down 74-year-old Kent Houser after he made a right turn against their wishes, pounding on his silver Lexus and breaking a window. The car sustained thousands of dollars in damage, he told the Oregonian.
Even so, Mr. Wheeler insisted that “motorists should feel completely safe coming into downtown Portland.”
Demonstrators did not obtain a permit before holding the Oct. 6 march to protest the death of Patrick Kimmons, a 27-year-old black man who was shot and killed Sept. 30 by police. The shooting is under investigation.
The mayor has been accused of taking a kid-gloved approach to the protests that routinely roil the liberal enclave, such as the summer occupation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, which saw Portland police refuse to assist the immigration-enforcement officers unless they were in physical danger.
“This is the kind of street anarchy that routinely happens where I live,” tweeted Mr. Ngo.
More rioting broke out Saturday night as antifa activists brawled with protesters who turned out for a “flash march for law and order,” organized Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group.
Portland police made no arrests during the bloody melee, even though “officers observed people in possession of hard-knuckled gloves, firearms, batons and knives. Officers also observed people use pepper spray,” according to a department statement.
“Officers responded to the scene and used less lethal munitions to break up the fight and prevent further violence,” said Portland Police Bureau Chief Danielle Outlaw. “We will continue to investigate this incident and ask that anyone who was the victim of a crime to come forward and file a report.”
According to TV station KGW, four people received medical attention, but authorities did not know whether anyone was hospitalized.
Mr. Wheeler, who also holds the title of police commissioner, took a swipe at recent unflattering news coverage, such as a Fox News story headlined, “Mob rule? Leftist protesters take over Portland street.”
“I’m willing to take criticism all day long from Fox News,” he said. “But I’m not willing to accept criticism from Fox News of the men and women of the Portland Police Bureau.”
The mayor argued that law enforcement is in a no-win situation.
“This is the story of Goldilocks and the two bears. The porridge is either too hot or it’s too cold,” Mr. Wheeler told reporters. “At any given moment in this city, the police are criticized for being heavy-handed and intervening too quickly, or they’re being criticized for being standoffish and not intervening quickly enough.”