Portland, OR – As rioters destroyed businesses and attacked law enforcement officers during months of nightly rioting in downtown Portland in late July, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler kicked around the idea of ordering the city’s police force to hand the city over to the violent mob.
Wheeler texted one of his top aides, Sonia Schmanski, about his plan to have the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) stand down in late July, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
He acknowledged that the move would be “high risk,” but claimed the city had “nothing to lose” by trying it anyway, according to the news outlet.
Meanwhile, officers fought nightly to fend off rioters intent on storming and torching the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other locations throughout the downtown area.
Mobs hurled bricks, bottles, rocks, mortars, knives, and Molotov cocktails at federal officers, while simultaneously blocking traffic, igniting fires, and unsuccessfully attempting to set up an “autonomous zone” in Lownsdale Square Park.
On July 22, rioters ripped the protective plywood off of the federal courthouse, bashed in a window, and threw an explosive device inside the occupied building.
Moments later, the device exploded as federal officers were attempting to exit the courthouse through the broken window.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Sussman, they were unable to leave through the front doors because rioters had barricaded them inside, The Oregonian reported at the time.
A deputy U.S. Marshal suffered injuries to both of his legs due to the blast, Williams said.
As the city descended further and further into chaos, Wheeler considered caving to the rioters’ demands and nearly ordered PPB to stand down, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Someone managed to convince the mayor that handing the city over to a violent mob might not be the best course of action, especially after the rioters began moving into residential neighborhoods.
“I was persuaded that a complete withdrawal, even for one evening to test the ability to completely deescalate the situation, would be a risk that was too great,” Wheeler told Oregon Public Broadcasting in a recent interview. “We could not risk the people who were in the immediate vicinity.”
But that isn’t to say he wouldn’t consider following through with his idea in the future.
“We’re all considering all options,” Wheeler continued. “The core objective here is to create a free and safe space to those people who want to express their First Amendment rights and to compartmentalize and deescalate the violence as much as possible and where it’s safe to do so arrest people and hold them accountable.”
“That’s the formula,” he added, without providing any clear plan of action moving forward.
While Wheeler and other city leaders ponder how to appease the violent mobs, law enforcement officers continue to defend the downtown area during the nightly attacks that have continued for nearly three months straight.