PORTLAND, Ore. (NewsNation Now) — The mayor of Portland on Thursday ordered police to stop using CS gas, more commonly known as tear gas, for crowd control during the frequently violent protests that have racked the city for more than three months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, was tear gassed when he went to a demonstration against the presence of federal authorities dispatched to the city to protect federal property.
Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, said “effective immediately and until further notice, I am directing the Portland Police to end the use of CS gas for crowd control.”
Repeatedly during the 104 days of protests in Portland, CS gas has been used by PPB, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police “where there is a threat to life safety,” he said. “We need something different. We need it now.”
But that doesn’t mean Wheeler wants police and the justice system to stand back in the face of ongoing violence. Hundreds of people have been arrested since the protests started in May. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday that nine protesters have been charged in connection with alleged criminal activity during the protests.
“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,” the mayor said.
The protesters want city officials to slash the police budget and reallocate that money to Black residents and businesses. Some demonstrators are also demanding the resignation of Wheeler, a white man and the scion of a timber company fortune.
In clashes with police, some protesters have broken windows, set small fires, punctured police car tires, shined lasers in officers’ eyes and pelted them with rocks and frozen water bottles.
Wheeler recently moved out of his high-rise apartment after protesters targeted the building, setting a fire in a business on the ground floor.
The Associated Press reports city officials say at least three Portland police officers have been removed from patrol and protest duties while investigations proceed into whether they engaged in misconduct against protesters.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Wheeler ordered officers to be placed on administrative duty starting last week, including one seen on video tackling and repeatedly punching a protester in the face. Wheeler’s chief of staff Kristin Dennis said she didn’t know exactly how many officers are on desk duty.
NewsNation affiliate KOIN and the Associated Press contributed to this report