Aug 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Portland mayor responds to Trump: "Support us or stay the hell out of the way"

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler reacted on Sunday to President Trump's tweets attacking Democratic officials in the wake of a fatal shooting Saturday night during clashes between Trump supporters and protesters, saying at a news conference, "I'd appreciate that either the president support us or stay the hell out of the way."

Why it matters: Trump has made Portland, which has seen more than 90 consecutive days of Black Lives Matter protests, a target for his claims that Democratic leadership is allowing violent rioters and antifa to overrun cities. Wheeler last week rejected Trump's offer to send federal law enforcement in the city to help quell violent protests, leading the president to unleash a barrage of attacks on Twitter over the weekend.

What he's saying: "Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence? It's you who have created the hate and division," Wheeler told reporters.

  • "My response is as the president of the United States and somebody who has been perpetrating divisive and hateful language for four years — for him to now stand here and say that it's unexpected and act as though he is shocked, is appalling to me."
  • "The tweets that he has been putting out in the last 48 hours attacking Democratic mayors, attacking those who are trying to bring resolution to the violence in their local communities. He has an opportunity to uplift us and bring us together and help us move through this difficult situation in our nation's history."
  • "And instead, he chooses to play petty politics and divide us. ... I'm gonna do the work I need to do here in my local community with my local officials to take accountability for what's happening in our streets, and I'd appreciate that either the president support us or stay the hell out of the way."

The big picture: Wheeler stressed that he condemns any violence and that the solution is providing a space for peaceful protests while addressing the systemic injustices that are underlying the unrest. He also said he's not sure how something like Saturday night's shooting death could have been prevented from an operational standpoint.

  • "Keep in mind, it's no secret to anybody that I personally am not a Trump supporter," Wheeler said. "But I will defend to the death the right of a Trump supporter to stand outside my apartment and nonviolently demonstrate in support of their candidate."
  • "When people say they want to come into the city in a caravan supporting their presidential candidate, we cannot tell them no," he continued. "They have constitutional rights to be here, rights which I embrace and support. The violence, however, is the problem."
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