Portland Mayor Bans Police Use of Tear Gas After 100 Days of Rioting

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has banned the use of tear gas on rioters in the Oregon city.

Wheeler, a Democrat who is also Portland’s police commissioner, banned the use of tear gas munitions on rioters Thursday, despite ongoing riots that have surpassed the 100-day mark, a press release from his office says. Wheeler wrote that the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police have used tear gas to quell riots over nearly four months.

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“We need something different. We need it now,” the mayor wrote, adding:

It’s time for everyone to reduce the violence in our community. 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 Oregon’s Legislature are seeking “safer alternatives” to the nonlethal 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 use of tear gas, and it challenged what it called a misconception 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. 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 mayor condemned criminal behavior from rioters and said he expects police to arrest those who engage in violence.

“Arson, vandalism, and violence are not going to drive change in this community,” Wheeler 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 May 25 death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for about eight minutes. Police charged nine rioters Wednesday for crimes ranging from launching mortars at federal buildings to injuring a law enforcement officer, KXL 101 reported.

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