Wheeler: Police responded with certainty, swiftly

25 people were arrested following the riot

Riot police confront participants in a May Day riot, May 1, 2017. (Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Business owners and city leaders are coping with the damage left behind after the May Day protest grew into a riot, leaving property damage and graffiti all over downtown Portland.

In his first publicly spoken comments since anarchists overtook a May Day march, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he supports police taking a tougher stance with protesters that escalate to violence.

Around noon Tuesday, Wheeler talked with reporters after a tour at the renovated Franklin High School.

Below are a few of his remarks:

“Given what had happened a few days ago, given what historically happens on May Day, we were absolutely expecting there would be a limited number of people coming in with the intention of disrupting what was otherwise a peaceful march,” Wheeler said.

“What did surprise me was how quickly they jumped into it. Typically they wait until after dark, but these guys decided to go very quickly. As soon as they got by the Federal Building they started committing acts of vandalism. The police acted quickly to immediately cancel the march and began arresting people who they were observing committing acts of vandalism.

“That’s exactly what the police bureau should be doing. I applaud them and thank them for being there during difficult and potentially unsafe circumstances.”

Asked if the police could have taken a tougher stance, Wheeler said, “It is certainly something I support. … We have been clear in our expectations. I said a few days after I took office when it came to these large-scale protests we would protect First Amendment rights. We would encourage people to secure a permit, that we were not going to alow them access to bridges of freeways for their own protection and the safety and the protection of everybody else in the community. And under no circumstances would we accept violence or vandalism.

“We set a clear standard. We have upheld a clear standard and that is what I will continue to do as mayor.”

Signs of what happened Monday remain scattered throughout the city. Plywood over broken windows, graffiti being cleaned off walls of businesses and City Hall. One jewelry store remains open even while cleaning up the mess.

Wheeler said many of his conversations with businesses this day were about re-iterating his zero-tolerance stance on destruction.

“Most of the conversations, I will say, have been extremely positive. I think most of the business owners appreciated my reaching out to them and letting them now that we don’t want this kind of thing to happen in our city,” Wheeler told KOIN 6 News. “It should never be allowed to happen and again I believe the police did everything they could. They responded with certainty and they responded swiftly.”

Earlier in the day, he tweeted his first response:

Sandra McDonough, CEO of the Portland Business Alliance, made it clear that the organization totally supports free speech and peaceful protests, but “vandalism and violence are not OK from anybody.”

She said she’s being hearing from business owners who are concerned about the damaged that was allowed to happen downtown again.

“My job is to hear what they say and then to make sure that they have an appropriate way to convey that to city leaders,” McDonough said.