Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who for weeks had blamed President Trump for fueling riots in his Oregon city, on Thursday acknowledged that the violence has continued even after the federal presence was curtailed, and told peaceful protesters to stay home.
Mr. Wheeler, who is also the city’s police commissioner, said he’s authorized officers to “do whatever is necessary” to gain control after another night of rioting against officers.
And he used a base political appeal to try to get the riots to stop, saying they’re inadvertently helping Mr. Trump.
“Don’t think for a moment that if you are participating in this activity that you are not being a prop for the reelection campaign for Donald Trump, because you absolutely are,” he said in a press conference conducted online. “You are creating the b-roll film that will be used in ads nationally to help Donald Trump during his campaign. You don’t want to be part of that, then don’t show up.”
Police say a crowd barricaded and tried to set fire to a precinct with officers still inside it Wednesday night. Protesters also aimed green lasers at officers, threw shot put-sized rocks at them and fired commercial grade fireworks at them. At one point a demonstrator attempted to run over officers using a truck, police said.
A riot was declared and police used tear gas to clear the scene.
“The attack was immediate, it was intentional, and it was planned. It was intended to cause serious injury or death, and it very well could have,” Mr. Wheeler said in a Zoom press conference.
He and other local officials had insisted things would calm down once Homeland Security curtailed its presence at the federal courthouse downtown, giving the lead over to state police.
That transition happened a week ago, and the downtown area, while still the scene of large marches, has been much quieter. But the violence has now shifted to target local police.
Mr. Wheeler said trying to burn the precinct with officers inside it was attempted murder.
The Oregonian newspaper reported that the fire was contained in a metal garbage can, though it did char a board near the precinct entrance.
Mr. Wheeler said the use of tear gas to disperse the crowd was the right call.
He said he anticipated more “attacks” in coming days and warned peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters that they’re being sullied by the violence.
“If you do not view yourself as wanting to be associated with, or be part of the kind of criminal activity we saw last night, I would ask you not to show up. And if you do show up, say something,” he said.
That warning was akin to the statements by federal officials, who have said they respect the rights of peaceful protesters but are compelled to take action against violent mobs.
Mr. Wheeler said the violence has become a distraction from real work he said the BLM movement is about.