Like the liberal white male mayor of Minneapolis learned when he had the temerity to stand up and tell a crowd of angry protesters that he wouldn't support disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has struggled to connect with the throngs of angry, young and (mostly) white crowds of impressionable college students and disgruntled post-grads who have flooded the area outside a federal courthouse in downtown Portland for nearly 2 months straight, SARS-CoV-2 be damned.
Many of these demonstrators probably aren't even from Portland. And it's clear that their animosity toward Wheeler - who also serves as Police Commissioner - stems not from any personal failing on his part, but rather due to his role in "the system", and the fact that he's a white man. But that hasn't dissuaded Wheeler from trying to pander to them, anyway, guided perhaps by misguided political strategists who feel that the hard-core protesters truly have the public's sympathy. Over the past 10 days, as federal agents have moved to defend the federal courthouse mentioned above from vandals and enforce laws after Wheeler pulled out the local cops, Wheeler has sided with the rabble over the government he was elected to represent, denouncing the federal "stormtroopers" who have been "abducting" residents of his city, according to the AP.
This has done nothing to quell the unrest (many of the people out there on the barricade night after night after night are clearly being supported by somebody - even if that somebody is the absentee father who nevertheless left them a generous trust). So on Wednesday night, Wheeler took his 'revolutionary' kayfabe to the next level and wandered down to the courthouse, where he stood up and took his tear-gassing, an act that was filmed by eager journalists. But not before holding an hours long "listening session" with the aggrieved.
The footage of Wheeler's tear-gassing, and his reaction, have gone viral overnight.
Amusingly, one protester brought a sign urging the mayor to take his dose of tear gas. The simple placard bore a terse message: "Tear Gas Ted!".
When Wheeler tried to address the crowd, he was enthusiastically booed, the AP reported.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, said it was the first time he’d been tear gassed and appeared slightly dazed and coughed as he put on a pair of goggles someone handed him and drank water. He didn’t leave his spot at the front, however, and continued to take gas. Around Wheeler, the protest raged, with demonstrators lighting a large fire in the space between the fence and the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse and the pop-pop-pop of federal agents deploying tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the federal agents knew Wheeler was in the crowd when they used the tear gas.
Earlier in the night, Wheeler was mostly jeered as he tried to rally demonstrators who have clashed nightly with federal agents but was briefly applauded when he shouted “Black Lives Matter” and pumped his fist in the air. The mayor has opposed federal agents’ presence in Oregon’s largest city, but he has faced harsh criticism from many sides and his presence wasn’t welcomed by many, who yelled and swore at him.
"I want to thank the thousands of you who have come out to oppose the Trump administration’s occupation of this city,” Wheeler told hundreds of people gathered downtown near the federal courthouse. “The reason this is important is it is not just happening in Portland ... we’re on the front line here in Portland.”
After listening to Wheeler throw them under the bus for political gain, we imagine the federal agents doing the gassing were only too happy to comply.
Once the gas hit, the crowd of protesters, eager to put the mayor in his place, started jeering once more. "Eat that sh*t! Eat that sh*t!" one deranged protester shouted at the mayor, who was starting to look ill, something that was noticeable even with the facemask.
Meanwhile, what were Wheeler's "peaceful protesters" doing Wednesday night? The same thing they do every night - try to burn down the courthouse.
Watching Wheeler gasp for breath, we couldn't help but think that the mayor could probably learn a valuable political lesson from a classic "Chappelle's Show" sketch: "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong".
"It's good to be real sometimes, it's good to be phony sometimes," Chappelle said.
Besides, Ted. It's not like any of these professional protesters you're pandering to are going to vote.