Portland, OR – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pepper-sprayed a man who allegedly pulled out a cell phone and started accosting him outside a restaurant on Sunday night.
The incident occurred as Wheeler and former Portland Mayor Sam Adams were leaving the Hillsdale Brewery & Public House in Southwest Portland at approximately 8 p.m., Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
According to a police report obtained by The Oregonian reporter Maxine Bernstein, Wheeler said he was “confronted by a middle-aged white male” who appeared to be recording him with a cell phone.
He said he’d never met the man before.
The man allegedly told Wheeler that he had been taking photos of him while he was sitting inside the restaurant tent without wearing a mask.
“I was in the tented area of a restaurant sitting at a table, and I informed him the current Covid regulations allow people to take their mask off for the purpose of eating and drinking,” Wheeler noted, according to the police report.
The man allegedly persisted in his accusations and followed the mayor to his car while continuing to record him, Wheeler said.
As the mayor tried to get into his vehicle, the unmasked man came “within a foot or two” of his face, Wheeler recounted.
“I immediately became concerned for my personal safety, as I had recently been physically accosted in a similar situation,” the mayor said, according to police. “In addition, I was concerned about contracting Covid given that he was right in my face [and] that he was not wearing a face mask.”
Wheeler said he “clearly informed” the man that he “needed to back off,” but said the man persisted.
That’s when the mayor warned him that he was carrying pepper spray and that he would deploy it if the man didn’t “back off,” according to the report.
“He remained at a close distance, [so] I pulled out my pepper spray and I sprayed him in the eyes,” Wheeler told police. “He seemed surprised, and backed off.”
The mayor said that as the man walked away from the confrontation, he commented that he “couldn’t believe” Wheeler had pepper sprayed him.
Wheeler said he tossed a water bottle in the man’s direction so he could flush his eyes out before he and Adams drove away.
The mayor alerted Robert King, his senior policy advisor on public safety, about what had transpired, and King reported the incident to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Adams said he was able to audio record the incident and provided a copy of the recording to PPB, Willamette Week reported.
It is unknown if police are searching for or have identified the man accused of accosting the mayor.
Wheeler’s office released a statement Monday noting that he had filed a police report and was “cooperating with the police investigation and encourages others involved to do the same,” according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Sunday’s confrontation marked the second time in a month that Wheeler has been publicly accosted while dining out.
On Jan. 6, Wheeler and a friend were waiting for their meals at Café Nell when a group barged in at approximately 8:30 p.m., Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Wheeler and his companion had been there for about five minutes before they were confronted by the angry group, the mayor’s communications director, Jim Middaugh, later told the news outlet.
According to PPB spokesperson Sergeant Kevin Allen, one member of the group punched the mayor in the shoulder during the ordeal, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Video footage from the encounter didn’t capture the alleged strike, but it did show the protesters screaming and cursing at Wheeler.
“I think you need to do your job as a f—king mayor,” one man in the group yelled at Wheeler. “I think you’re a disgrace. I think that everybody in this f—king city thinks that you’re f—king pathetic, Tevis. How dare you…do you think that we’re gonna forget about you? We’re never gonna forget you, Tevis! Ever!”
Wheeler interrupted the raging man’s tirade to ask him how old he is, the video showed.
“You need to grow up,” the mayor ultimately told the yelling protester.
“You need to grow up, Ted!” his critic retorted. “You are an incompetent mayor…kiss my -ss! F—k you! To your face! You’re a b—h!”
Another protester suddenly popped up just inches behind Wheeler’s head screaming, “war criminal!”
“You are going to be made to feel like the scum you are,” a masked man standing just feet away from the mayor yelled in another clip. “F—k you! F—k you! Shame on you!”
A third video showed Wheeler holding up his phone and panning over the group as they taunted him on their way out of the restaurant.
Wheeler later said that one of the women involved in the incident “swatted” at him when he tried to use his phone to record them, Middaugh told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Police said the mayor was not injured during the assault.
The suspect who allegedly hit him has not been identified.
Wheeler ultimately took his meal to go and left the business, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The mayor has become a target for angry rioters who blame him for allowing police to use tear gas earlier in the summer to disperse violent mobs that burned and looted the city.
Wheeler is often harassed and verbally attacked as he travels throughout Portland, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
He announced in August that he would be moving out of his condominium after the 16-story tower was repeatedly targeted by rioters.
Hundreds of people showed up outside the mayor’s Pearl District home on Aug. 31, 2020 to “celebrate” his 58th birthday.
Many members of the group wore party hats and carried balloons and signs demanding the mayor’s resignation, KATU reported.
Some sang “Happy tear gas, war crimes Wheeler/Happy tear gas to you,” to the tune of “Happy Birthday,” according to the news outlet.
Upon their arrival at Wheeler’s building, the mob launched off commercial-grade fireworks, broke into a random business, smashed various windows, graffitied buildings, and ignited a fire inside an occupied apartment building, according to a PPB press release.
Rioters pushed a dumpster to the middle of the street and set it ablaze, then started a second fire in the roadway, KATU reported.
They fueled the fires with various pieces of furniture they had stolen from a building they had broken into, according to the PPB.
Just two minutes after police ordered the mob to leave the area, police saw a member of the crowd “throw burning material through a broken window into a ground-level business [inside] a large, occupied apartment building,” according to the press release.
Police then declared the situation to be a riot.
They arrested 19 people before the chaos finally died down around 2 a.m.
Wheeler sent an email out to the other residents of his 114-unit condominium building the following morning, The Oregonian reported.
“I want to express my sincere apologies for the damage to our home and the fear that you are experiencing due to my position,” he wrote, according to the paper. “It’s unfair to all of you who have no role in politics or in my administration.”
Middaugh said in a statement on Jan. 7 that the recently re-elected mayor has not been deterred by the constant barrage of angry outbursts from citizens.
“The Mayor is committed to supporting local businesses and wants others to do the same,” his office told Oregon Public Broadcasting in a statement. “Given the tenor of political discourse nationally and locally, it’s not unusual for people to confront the Mayor and other elected officials in public. It’s part of the job.”