Portland mayor tear-gassed by federal agents during demonstration

The mayor of Portland has been teargassed by federal agents as he stood at a fence guarding a courthouse during another night of protest against the presence of federal agents sent by Donald Trump to quell unrest in the city.

Ted Wheeler, the Democratic mayor of the city in Oregon, said it was the first time he had been teargassed and appeared slightly dazed as he put on a pair of goggles someone had handed to him, coughed and drank water. He did not move from his position.

Around Wheeler the protest raged late on Wednesday, with protesters lighting a large fire in the space between the fence and the courthouse. Federal agents deployed teargas and stun grenades into the crowd. It was not immediately clear if the agents knew Wheeler was in the crowd when they used the teargas.

Earlier in the night, Wheeler was mostly jeered as he tried to rally demonstrators who have clashed nightly with federal agents, but was briefly applauded when he shouted “Black Lives Matter” and pumped his fist in the air. The mayor has opposed the federal agents’ presence in Oregon’s largest city, but has faced harsh criticism and his presence was not welcomed by many, who yelled and swore at him.

“I want to thank the thousands of you who have come out to oppose the Trump administration’s occupation of this city,” Wheeler told hundreds of people gathered downtown. “The reason this is important is it is not just happening in Portland ... we’re on the frontline here in Portland.”

Some Portland residents, including city council members, have accused Wheeler of not reining in local police, who have used teargas multiple times before federal agents arrived early this month, in response to nearly two months of nightly protests since the killing of George Floyd.

Others, including business leaders, have condemned Wheeler for not bringing the situation under control before the agents showed up.

Protesters in the crowd held signs that read “Tear Gas Ted” in reference to the Portland police bureau’s use of the substance before federal agents arrived. When the mayor left the protest, at about 12.40am, some protesters surrounded him and shouted angrily as he walked away. One person shouted: “You’ve got to be here every single night!”

While taking questions on Wednesday night, Wheeler was criticised for the actions of his own police department, not defunding the local police and not ensuring they protect people from federal agents. The mayor said he wanted to use the energy of the protests to make changes.

Wheeler then addressed the much larger crowd from a raised balcony, saying: “I am here tonight to stand with you.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the council banned police from cooperating with federal agents or arresting reporters or legal observers.

Wheeler’s tense night-time appearance came hours after attorneys for Oregon urged a judge to issue a restraining order against agents deployed to quell the protests.

The arguments from the state and the US government came in a lawsuit filed by the Oregon attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, who accused federal agents of arresting protesters without probable cause, whisking them away in unmarked cars and using excessive force. Federal authorities have disputed the allegations.

Trump announced on Wednesday that federal agents would be deployed to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to fight rising crime. Democratic mayors of 15 cities condemned the use of federal officers in a letter to the US attorney general.

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