Wheeler declares State of Emergency, city leaders react to riot

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'Burning the city does not honor the memory of George Floyd'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler followed his State of Emergency Declaration with an emotional briefing Saturday morning in the wake of Friday night’s riots.

The city’s State of Emergency carries a curfew for all public places within the city limits and goes into effect at 8 p.m. Saturday and lasts through 6 a.m. Sunday, May 31.

Wheeler expressed frustration and sympathized with public outrage over the killing of George Floyd. However, the mayor was adamant about Friday’s destruction being a major step backward in the healing process.

“I cannot condone last night’s violence,” Wheeler said Saturday from City Hall. “I can’t stand by and watch our city be destroyed, buildings set aflame. I won’t. But nor will I stand silent as men like George Floyd are murdered by the very institutions that are supposed to protect and serve them.”

Wheeler called George Floyd’s death a murder. “Yes, there was a riot,” he said. “But this cannot be a conversation just about damage, goods or services.”

“We cannot begin healing if we continue to wound each other, so enough of the violence.” This is a tipping point, a time for national reckoning, he said. “We have to choose which path to follow. We must take this opportunity to address our differences to move forward together.”

Wheeler pledged to do “whatever it takes to close the divide.”

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty pledged along with the mayor to help find and make sure the criminals involved in the riot were arrested. She also made it clear the arsonists, looters, and rioters had no connection to the peace gathering she attended earlier Friday, where hundreds of people gathered at Peninsula Park for a vigil.

“What happened last night had nothing to do with Black American. It was not about standing up for Black people’s rights or acknowledging the death and harm that has taken place,” said Hardesty. “It was a small group of people who decided, here’s a great opportunity for us to steal stuff and break stuff.”

Wheeler’s State of Emergency order exempts first responders, media personnel, and those in emergency situations. Those who do not comply with the order will be fined up to $500 or prosecuted, according to Wheeler.

Wheeler’s declaration follows a reaction of “disgust” to the protests that turned violent. “ENOUGH,” Wheeler wrote in all caps on Twitter just before midnight. “Burning the city does not honor the memory of George Floyd,” he said, calling the night’s violence “disgusting.”

There were questions about why Portland police did not try and stop the violence when it careened out of control as protesters broke windows and started a fire inside the Justice Center. Police said the violence was unexpected.

“We aren’t going to have a more aggressive police response at protests—that’s not how to prevent what happened last night,” said Deputy Chief Chris Davis. “And you don’t prevent what happened last night by over-policing a free speech event.”

Photos: Damage to downtown Portland after overnight riot

The impact of the destruction weighed on all the officials who spoke.

“This was a traumatic experience for everybody, for everyone, but I want people to understand, when we talk about trauma and fear, when we talk about nobody is there to protect us, that is what Black people feel every single day,” said Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone.

At the end of the press conference, Wheeler clarified that his mother is in hospice and he was with his family on Friday determining what those next steps will be.

Saturday afternoon, Governor Kate Brown shared her thoughts in a thread on Twitter by first stating, “Too many Black lives taken by racist violence. Far too many. Mourning their loss is not enough. We must commit ourselves to racial justice.”

The tweet has since been pinned to the top of her account.

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