PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In a wide-ranging interview Thursday morning, Mayor Ted Wheeler gave an update on the search for a suspect in the shooting of Aaron Danielson last Saturday, provided thoughts on what it will take for the protests to end and swatted away the tweets lobbed his way by President Trump.
The shooting and its aftermath
Wheeler urged people not to seek retribution for the shooting because investigators don’t have all the facts yet.
“We don’t even have all the facts yet. We haven’t been able to speak to all of the witnesses. We haven’t been able to process all of the video that’s come from local businesses,” he told KOIN 6 News.
The mayor also said anyone who is thinking about traveling to Portland to protest should stay away.
“If people are planning on coming here to commit acts of violence or seek retribution…I would encourage them to help deescalate the situation and stay away,” he said.
Wheeler said the city is preparing for possible weekend demonstrations with state law enforcement.
“What we do not need is groups confronting each other violently. But we will be prepared for it,” he said.
Asked if he’s concerned the expected protests this weekend could turn violent, Wheeler said of course he is.
“We are working with both our local law enforcement partners and state law enforcement partners. We will keep separation as much as we’re able to keep separation and if people are engaged in criminal activity we’ll do our level best to hold them accountable — either on the spot if it’s safe to do so or later on through our investigative resources.”
He said he spoke with Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt about prosecuting those arrested at the protests. Schmidt “told me that he will look at each and every case individually and that’s the answer I wanted to hear. He’s also made it very, very clear he will prosecute those who are engaged in acts of violence or criminal distraction.”
“It doesn’t sit well by me,” he said, “that the police make an arrest, somebody’s processed in the jails, they’re not held in, they’re right back on the streets.”
When will the protests end
The mayor said he is not a good predictor for when or how the protests will end.
“I believe in part it’s going to be law enforcement holding people accountable. I also believe the larger piece of this is going to be those few people engaged in acts of criminality or violence are going to hear loudly and clearly from the community: We don’t support it, we don’t approve it, we don’t condone it and we hold them accountable for that violence and action.”
He also said “there will be further police reforms but that’s a conversation I want to have with the community rather than just putting exclusively my ideas on the table.”
Wheeler dismissed the notion he hasn’t condemned the ongoing violence. He once again condemned violence, saying he will do everything he can to deescalate the situation and hold those accountable to who are engaged in criminal activity.
“I cannot make my colleagues or even my opponent in this mayoral race condemn the violence the way I would like to see them condemn the violence, but I want people to be very clear about where I stand: I absolutely, unequivocally, 100% condemn the violence and I will do everything I can in my power to both deescalate the situation and hold those accountable who are engaged in acts of violence and criminal destruction.”
“I will meet with anybody who will meet with me to sit down for a productive conversation. This is all about furthering the community,” Wheeler said.
Trump ‘has more time than I do, apparently’
When he was asked to respond to President Trump’s most recent tweets about Portland, Wheeler demurred.
“I cannot respond to each and everyone of the President’s tweets. He has a lot more time than I do apparently. We’ve got a COVID crisis to manage, we’ve got an economic crisis to manage, we have the issues on our streets which we are dealing with, we have livability issues that we collectively as a community are rising together to address. I don’t have time to spend all day long on Twitter responding to each and every social media post by the President of the United States.”
However he did fire back over Trump’s threat to withdraw federal funding to Portland and other cities.
“Those are safety net resources, they are food resources, housing resources, education resources, the resources that business leaders are relying on to help get their small businesses through the COVID crisis,” Wheeler said. “To even threaten to withdraw those resources because the President of the United States doesn’t like the mayors of particular cities is both unconscionable and it is purely political.”
And he noted Trump may not have the authority to withhold these federal funds.
“We do not believe that he can take the money back from the taxpayers here that has already been allocated for the purposes of education, of housing, of basic safety net support.”
Having to move from his condo
Acknowledging that he has decided to move out of his NW Portland condo building because of protesters, Wheeler said it’s disappointing but the “right thing to do.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to my neighbors that they should be subjected to this just because I’m the mayor of Portland,” he said.
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