Portland, Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler apparently made a New Year’s resolution. Something changed as the calendar turned on the heels of a few tossed Molotov cocktails and a police-labeled riot in downtown Portland.
During a Friday press conference, Wheeler drastically changed his stance on the vandalism and frequently violent protests that have been ongoing in Portland after a New Year’s Eve gathering caused more destruction for hours.
He came after antifa, the anti-fascist movement.
“Who? Violent antifa and anarchists,” Wheeler said. “What? Rampaging through Portland, breaking windows, spray-painting, causing reportedly tens of thousands of dollars of criminal destruction, extensively damaging both taxpayer- and privately funded property.
“Why? This is the hardest of all questions to answer. On a night when most people were spending time with loved ones, in the company of the people they care about, looking for hope and optimism that can come with the dawn of a new year, why would a group of largely white, young and some middle-aged men, from all reports, destroy the livelihood of other people who are struggling to get by?”
Wheeler said he had made good-faith efforts toward de-escalation, but that the continued destructive behavior is selfish.
“It has been hard for me and others to accept the reality there are just some people on this planet who are just bent on criminal destruction,” Wheeler said. “That there are some people who truly just want to watch the world burn.”
He vowed to have law enforcement agencies at every level convene as early as this week, call on state legislators to increase penalties for repeat offenders, and have offenders perform public service and meet with the operators of the businesses they damage.
They could start with work on the federal courthouse that was damaged regularly over more than three months.