Apr 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Portland mayor asks residents to help "unmask" people behind violent protests

A line of police dressed in riot gear walk down a street with tear gas hanging in the air
Portland Police respond to a riot declaration on April 16 following an officer shooting a local man. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on Friday asked residents to help "unmask" the people behind violence at protests in recent weeks, which grew in fervor after police fatally shot a white man at Lents Park.

What he's saying: “They want to burn, they want to bash, they want to intimidate, they want to assault,” Wheeler said in a Friday video statement, referring to violent protestors. "Our community needs to resume their lives. People need to go back to work. Employers need to be able to reopen."

  • "I support our police using all legal strategies, including kettling, when the appropriate circumstances and resources are available to do so without putting officers at risk of physical harm."
  • "Our job is to unmask them, arrest them, and prosecute them," he said. "I want to personally thank neighbors, family, friends, and others who have come forward with vital evidence. People know who these criminals are. They know what they're up to."

Wheeler faced backlash for urging residents to call the police if they see people who are "all dressed in all black" arriving at protests in cars. His office in a follow-up statement said he was referring to "those who engage in criminal actions."

Flashback: "Understand that doing damage to us, our communities, and our resources undoes the work we do," a group of Portland-based Black organizers and protesters wrote in an open letter last week, prior to Wheeler's statement.

  • The mayor appeared to reference the letter, saying: "If BLM leaders can show the courage to stand up to this mob, then we all should."

The other side: "They tried to make us look like we are against each other. We might not all agree on the ways that we protest or we fight, but we know that we must fight," said protester Kevin Wright at a demonstration Saturday with other Black community members in response to Wheeler's remarks.

Go deeper