Left-wing groups in Oregon demanded Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler resign after the death of a right-wing protester over the weekend, saying Mr. Wheeler has allowed the city to spiral out of control.
Portland’s Democratic Socialists of America, Oregon’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Portland’s Resistance and other groups said they feel Mr. Wheeler has sided with the right wing folks over them.
They lamented the man killed Saturday — a member of the right-wing Patriot Prayer organization, according to fellow members — but said his death after a day of clashes between the right and left was Mr. Wheeler’s fault.
“What took place last night was inevitable given Mayor Wheeler’s repeated failures. He has not protected or supported Portlanders. We do not have confidence in his ability to course-correct. He must resign,” the groups said.
The city has seen three months of near-nightly violence, mostly at the hands of a couple hundred demonstrators who have been marching alongside a broader Black Lives Matter movement.
They’ve targeted government buildings, particularly those related to law enforcement, and have smashed windows, sprayed graffiti and lit small fires, while engaging in confrontations with police.
Over the last two weekend right-wing activists have conducted their own daytime protests, sparking clashes with left-wing demonstrators.
After a massive right-wing vehicle caravan Saturday, the Patriot Prayer member was killed.
The left-wing groups said Mr. Wheeler has allowed police to use harsh tactics on the BLM protesters, including tear gas.
“He has spent his entire tenure pretending he occupies the middle ground between the far left and the far-right when in reality, he and his police have sheltered and encouraged far-right violence,” the groups said. “He has exacerbated tensions in Portland, giving fuel to right-wing vigilante violence who, in answering the mayor’s call to ‘rise up,’ felt justified in their violent actions.”
Mr. Wheeler, in a press conference Sunday, said he defends the right to protest on all sides. But said that cannot be allowed to become violent. He blamed President Trump for stoking animosity.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, blames Democratic mayors and governors, and says the pockets of unrest will spread if Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden wins in November. Mr. Biden counters that the current unrest is happening under Mr. Trump.
Mr. Wheeler is running for re-election this year. He failed to cross the 50% threshold in the city’s open primary this spring, and now faces a challenge from the far left in November.
Political observers say given that matchup Mr. Wheeler, a liberal Democrat, could end up benefitting from Republicans’ votes.