Ted Wheeler, the Democratic mayor of Portland, Oregon, on Sunday evening pepper-sprayed a man in the face despite having banned local police from using similar substances against Black Lives Matter protesters.
Now: Wheeler was leaving a Portland craft brewery when the unidentified man confronted him and accused him of violating pandemic protocols while dining inside, the mayor told the Oregon police department.
- In a leaked audio recording of the incident taken by Wheeler’s dining companion, former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, the man can be heard shouting, “Thanks for ruining the city!”
- Wheeler then pepper-sprayed the man in the eyes.
- Oh my God!” the man cried. “Wow … I can’t see. The mayor has just thrown something at me.”
Wheeler later told police that the man — whom he described as white, in his 40s and unmasked — followed him to his car while recording with his phone and refused to back away despite multiple requests.
- The mayor said he felt compelled to use pepper-spray because he feared the man was a threat to his personal safety and might infect him with the coronavirus.
- To police and in the audio recording, Wheeler denied he had violated the county COVID-19 regulations.
A spokesman for the mayor’s office told The Washington Post on Monday that Wheeler is cooperating with police “and encourages others involved to do the same.”
- Adams declined to comment.
Then: As Black Lives Matter-themed protests and riots raged in Portland throughout last summer and fall, Wheeler sought to align himself with the activists.
- In September, Wheeler, who is also Portland’s police commissioner, indefinitely banned the city’s police from using CS gas for crowd control after he was tear-gassed by federal officers while attending a protest.
- Pepper spray and others forms of tear gas were still allowed, though.
Despite his best efforts, Wheeler is widely despised by Portland activists for failing to fully meet their demands for police reform.
- He was forced to move out of his condo in September after repeated destructive protests of him on the street outside.
- Earlier this month, Wheeler said a woman confronted him at another restaurant and later swatted him on the shoulder.
- Nonetheless, Wheeler narrowly won reelection in November.
Former President Donald Trump and other Republicans, meanwhile, made Wheeler something of a poster boy for Democratic officials’ relative leniency toward violent racial justice protesters.