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Portland Mayor Known as ‘Tear Gas Ted’ Gets Tear-Gassed Himself By Federal Officers; Calls it ‘Urban Warfare’

The situation in Portland has now escalated to include the tear-gassing of the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, in downtown Portland early Thursday morning.

Video posted by a New York Times correspondent shows Mayor Wheeler describing his experience on the streets of his city.

“I’m not gonna lie,” says Wheeler, “It stings. It’s hard to breathe.”

More disturbing than Wheeler’s account of the physical effects of being tear-gassed, however, was his take on the situation as a whole.

“I can tell you with 100% honesty I saw nothing that provoked this response,” Wheeler told the camera.  He continued to call the use of tear gas “an egregious overreaction on the part of the federal officers” and said “there is nothing that I saw here that warranted this reaction.”

Wheeler criticized the federal officers, saying that their use of force is “not a de-escalation strategy,” but rather “is flat-out urban warfare.” Wheeler pointed a finger directly at Donald Trump, saying that “it’s being wrought on the people of this country by the president of the United States and it has to stop right now.”

Wheeler, who has been dealing with nearly two months of protests and demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd, knew tear-gassing was a possibility. He announced to the crowd Wednesday that he would be with them as protesters faced off against federal officers sent into the city by the Trump administration.

On Wednesday night, those officers, dressed in camouflage and tactical gear, used tear gas to enforce boundaries set by a temporary fence.

To some, Wheeler’s being on the receiving end of tear gas is somewhat karmic. Many protesters have labeled him “Tear Gas Teddy,” referring to the Portland police department’s own highly-criticized use of tear gas.

Wheeler, as Portland’s mayor, is also the city’s police commissioner.

Some protesters mocked the mayor, asking him how it felt to be tear gassed.

Wheeler, who is running for reelection, told press that his experience Wednesday night has changed his view on the use of tear gas generally.  “I don’t think we should use these tools at all,” Wheeler said. “It makes me think long and hard about whether this is really a viable tool. I want to look at other options. This is not a good option.”

[screengrab via New York Times]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos