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Portland: Angry crowd confronts mayor, demands support, removal of federal agents

Portland, US: The mayor of Portland, Oregon, Ted Wheeler, was stung by tear gas early on Wednesday evening, July 23 after he joined demonstrators protesting against racial injustice and police brutality.

Security forces, who have tear-gassed and clubbed demonstrators during weeks of unrest. Wheeler, visiting the protest site outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, urged federal agents to be withdrawn from the city. Wheeler, who is also the city's police commissioner, was jeered at by demonstrators who called on him to resign and chanted "Shame on you." Some said he should have done more to protect Portland's citizens.

The deployment of federal agents in Portland on July 4 is a flashpoint in a national debate over civil liberties that has roiled the United States since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Demonstrators and local officials see the move as a political ploy by U.S. President Donald Trump to drum up a "law and order" campaign as he faces an uphill re-election battle.

Wheeler, a Democrat, has called the intervention an abuse of federal power and said it was escalating the violence. Wednesday saw bigger and bigger crowds of supporters joining the demonstrations. After a few demonstrators had set trash bags on the fire outside the courthouse, federal agents inside the Justice Center fired tear gas, flash bangs and pepper balls into the area.
Wheeler stood at the front of the line, in a surgical mask and goggles, and began to cough, a Reuters reporter said. He experienced two rounds of heavy tear gas. His eyes and nose were running, his face was red and his eyes were bloodshot.

He was whisked away by his security team to the city's municipal services building. Prior to the incident, Wheeler faced an angry crowd of more than 1,000 demonstrators packed outside the courthouse. The mayor's office had said Wheeler would attend the demonstration that night to talk to protesters and attempt to de-escalate tensions that have played out between demonstrators and law enforcement over the past 54 nights.

Demonstrators screamed expletives at him and a few chucked water bottles at him. The mayor has been criticized by demonstrators for the local police's unchecked use of force against demonstrators, which has included tear gassing, trampling, and pummeling protesters. Speaking to the crowd, Wheeler decried the presence of federal law enforcement officers, who were caught last week snatching protesters from the street into unmarked cars.

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