Democratic Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on Thursday banned the use of tear gas on rioters in the Oregon city.
Wheeler, who is also the Portland police commissioner, banned the use of tear gas munitions on rioters, despite ongoing riots in the city that have surpassed the 100-day mark, according to a press release from his office. Wheeler wrote that the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police have been using the gas to quell riots over the nearly 4-month period.
“We need something different,” the Democrat wrote. “We need it now.”
“It’s time for everyone to reduce the violence in our community,” he continued. “We all want change. We all have the opportunity and obligation to create change. We all want to focus on the fundamental issue at hand – justice for Black people and all people of color.”
Wheeler said his administration and the state legislature are seeking “safer alternatives” to the non-lethal gas.
“I commend the work that the Oregon State Legislature and Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform have done to date to convene experts to evaluate the use of gas and what safer alternatives may exist that prevent the need for greater force,” he said. “I commit the City of Portland to full participation in these reforms and encourage the Legislature to take up this issue as soon as possible.”
The Portland Police Bureau condemned Wheeler’s decision to ban the use of the gas and they challenged an alleged misconception saying that the gas is used for crowd control, according to a press release.
“CS gas is a tool which has been used sparingly in the last 104 nights,” the bureau wrote. “We want to clear up a misconception that it is being used as crowd control. It is not. It is being used to disperse crowds only when there is a life safety event. Most recently, it was used to disperse a crowd from which a Molotov cocktail was thrown at officers and ended up injuring a community member who was on fire.”
“Banning the lawful use of CS will make it very difficult to address this kind of violence without resorting to much higher levels of physical force, with a correspondingly elevated risk of serious injury to members of the public and officers,” the bureau continued.
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) September 10, 2020
The mayor condemned criminal behavior from rioters and he expects “the police to arrest people who engage” in violence.
“Arson, vandalism, and violence are not going to drive change in this community,” he said. “I expect the police to arrest people who engage in criminal acts. I expect the District Attorney to prosecute those who commit criminal acts. And I expect the rest of the criminal justice system to hold those individuals accountable. We must stand together as a community against violence and for progress.”
Riots have continued in Portland since the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. Nine rioters were charged Wednesday for crimes ranging from launching mortars at federal buildings to injuring a law enforcement officer, according to KXL 101.
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