PORTLAND, Ore. — Weeks after he vowed to take a stronger stance stopping violent or destructive protests, Portland’s mayor said Monday he’s “very pleased” with how the city’s police bureau handled demonstrations during last week’s Inauguration Day. In the midst of those demonstrations, people smashed windows at the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Oregon and clashed with police, as well as federal officers, outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices along the South Waterfront.
“[Police] were able to make good identifications of people engaged in criminal destruction and violence,” Wheeler said in a press conference Monday. “They were able to make quick arrests.”
Police reported they’d arrested 14 people tied to that day’s protests. Wheeler said, based on his conversations with Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, he expects charges in several cases. He hopes those bent on destruction moving forward notice.
“I want to call them out for who they are,” the mayor said. “They're largely young to middle-aged white men who are often co-opting other movements. You don't get a free pass when you ransack a business and then spray paint ‘BLM’ on it.”
Monday's press conference came as economists blame protests, in part, for Portland's declining appeal.
According to Willamette Week, a new real estate ranking of the most desirable cities to build in shows Portland has gone from one of the most desirable locations in the country to near the bottom of the 80-city list. That drop, Willamette Week reports, came over the course of four years.
Economists added the protests, which started in the wake of George Floyd’s death, aren't the only reason. Wildfires appear to be another big one. That said, there's no denying the nation is watching Portland’s struggle.
At Monday’s White House press briefing, a reporter asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki why President Joe Biden hadn’t condemned violence in the Pacific Northwest since his inauguration.
“President Biden condemns violence and any violence in the strongest possible terms,” Secretary Psaki said. “Peaceful protests are a cornerstone of our democracy, but smashing windows is not protesting.”
On Monday, Wheeler added he knows Portlanders are frustrated, especially business owners. He also admitted recovery will take time, but he cited another reason, blaming the pandemic, for downtown being empty.
“Until we get our arms around the COVID crisis, downtown will not bounce back,” Wheeler said.