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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's strategy to quell rioting in the city: Let it 'burn itself out'
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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's strategy to quell rioting in the city: Let it 'burn itself out'

The do-nothing approach

Portland Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler has an innovative new strategy to quell riots in the Oregon city that have continued to rage on every night for more than three months. That is, do nothing in particular.

"I believe [the nightly violence] will ultimately burn itself out," Wheeler said during a recent interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Rebecca Ellis.

The message of inaction from the mayor is likely a disappointing one for many residents as well as law enforcement in the city who continue to face assaults from violent protesters on a nightly basis — not to mention the businesses forced to flee the destruction.

Federal agents had previously been deployed to the city to protect a federal courthouse there and help bring law and order, but that didn't exactly fit Wheeler's hands-off strategy.

Now the mayor, who has failed time and again to offer clear direction to law enforcement on how to handle the violence, has apparently left police to their own devices only to critique actions after the fact.

According to Ellis, Wheeler receives a report every morning on the protests that took place the night before and sometimes will follow-up with why specific tactics were used, but essentially leaves decisions on how to handle the riots up to police.

"They've tried everything from not showing up to preemptively dispersing crowds, and some of those strategies, in my opinion, have worked well. Others have not worked well," Wheeler told Ellis. "My expectation is the police bureau will evolve, and as they see a need for change, they'll change."

At one point last week, the report noted, Wheeler even considered the "high risk" plan of ordering police to stand down from the demonstrations, but balked ultimately before implementing it.

Now he says he is "considering all options" under the "core objective ... to create a free and safe space to those people who want to express their First Amendment rights," but that he hasn't identified how best to do that yet.

In the meantime, he's urging residents to stay patient. After all, he argued, these types of civil rights movements take time.

"I want to remind people when they say, 'when is this all going to end?' the nonviolent part of this probably won't end for quite some time," Wheeler said. "And I'm reminded regularly by people in this community who were engaged in the struggle for civil rights: The civil rights movement lasted a lot longer than two and a half months."

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