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Portland mayor pepper-sprayed man who confronted him at restaurant

Ted Wheeler, mayor of Portland, Ore., at a news conference last August
Ted Wheeler, mayor of Portland, Ore., speaks at a news conference last August.
(Sean Meagher / Oregonian)

Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, Ore., pepper-sprayed a man who confronted him and a former mayor as they left a restaurant, according to a police report.

Wheeler and Sam Adams, who served one term as Portland’s mayor from 2009 to 2013, had been eating together Sunday evening in a tented area at a restaurant in southwest Portland. When the pair left, Wheeler said a man whom he did not recognize approached him, videotaping him and accusing him of dining without wearing a mask.

According to a statement the mayor gave to police, Wheeler told the man of current COVID-19 regulations, which allow people to take off their masks to eat or drink.

“He then accused me of other things to which I indicated he did not understand the rules and should probably have a better understanding if he was going to confront people about them,” Wheeler said in his statement.

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Wheeler said the man stood close to him, making him concerned about his safety and the potential of coronavirus infection. Wheeler told the man to “back off” and said he was carrying pepper spray, which he would use if necessary. When the man did not listen, the mayor said he sprayed him in the eyes.

“He seemed surprised and backed off,” Wheeler told police. “He made a comment like, ‘I can’t believe you just pepper-sprayed me.’”

Adams, whose statement to police was consistent with the mayor’s, suggested to Wheeler that he should leave for his safety. Before doing so, Wheeler said he threw a bottle of water towards the man so that he could wash his eyes.

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Wheeler, who was reelected in November, has been targeted by left-wing demonstrators, including some who smashed windows and set fires inside his condominium building.

Earlier this month, Wheeler was accosted by a group of people who yelled obscenities at him while he was dining outdoors at a restaurant in northwest Portland.

On Monday, Wheeler’s office released a statement saying that “the mayor is cooperating with the police investigation and encourages others involved to do the same.”

The protesters defend the nightly taunting of police, along with vandalism and destruction of property, as a strategy to draw officers into clashes and expose them as fascists.

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During a news briefing Monday, when asked about Sunday’s incident, the mayor acknowledged that something had happened and that he had filed a police report.

He also spoke about recent violent protests, reiterating that ongoing criminal destruction and violence in Portland, which has been the scene of protests against racial injustice for eight months, was “unacceptable.”

“I will never support acts of criminal destruction and violence. That is not how we make political points in the United States of America,” Wheeler said. “We are actually, unfortunately, seeing this growing trend towards people saying, ’If you don’t agree with me politically, then we are going to come after you — either physically, or we are going to come after your home, or we are going to come after your place of business.’”


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