While you’d be hard-pressed to find any major city that hasn’t seen some degree of unrest this summer, St. Louis and Portland, Oregon are two of America’s hot spots when it comes to protest movements that have soured badly.
Part of the reason for this is mismanagement of the demonstrations by the cities’ respective mayors, albeit different flavors of mismanagement.
However, both of the Democratic mayors appear to have come to the same conclusion: They’re no longer safe in their homes.
On Tuesday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told residents in his condominium complex that he’s shopping for a new place less than 24 hours after violent protests culminated in burning material being thrown into a street-level storefront in the residential building.
One day later, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said she’d relocated from her home in the city’s Central West End after frequent protests there, as well.
Both Wheeler and Krewson are notable as politicians who dreadfully misread the room when protests erupted in their city after the death of George Floyd on May 25. It’d be tempting to tie both together as examples of left-wing permissiveness run amok, although that’d be oversimplifying the matter.
Wheeler has been the more traditional figure of Hamlet-like liberal dithering, trying to balance pockets of sudden revolutionary foment among the city’s granola-and-edibles residents with national disgust at constant scenes of commercial-grade fireworks being trained on law enforcement. (There’s also the fact that some of the granola-and-edibles types actually don’t mind it when the federal courthouse in their city isn’t under nightly attack from protesters.)
Wheeler’s position is doubly precarious because, as part of Portland’s odd form of commission government, he’s the commissioner of the Portland Police Bureau. Thus, he gets blamed when law enforcement has to deploy crowd-control measures, no matter how unruly the crowd they’re trying to control may be.
And unruly they get; on Saturday night, yet another riot was declared after marchers targeted a police precinct and threw incendiary devices at officers. The Oregonian reported that police “used tear gas for the first time in September.” It was the fifth day of the month.
The mayor has pointedly rejected any kind of federal help to end the unrest, even penning an open nastygram to President Donald Trump telling him to stop offering and to keep federal law enforcement out.
This means one of two things: Wheeler either can’t or won’t enforce the law.
Either way, when 200 of the more, ahem, energetic demonstrators he can’t or won’t deal with showed up at his condo complex Monday to “celebrate” his birthday by graffitiing the walls and trying in a desultory way to set the building ablaze, he decided it was time to shop around for a new place to live.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic language that some viewers may find offensive:
Earlier tonight: Antifa set fires in the building where Mayor Ted Wheeler supposedly lives, prompting police to declare a riot and disburse the crowd to allow firefighters at the scene. pic.twitter.com/OfASXps04p
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) September 1, 2020
“I want to express my sincere apologies for the damage to our home and the fear that you are experiencing due to my position,” he said in an email to other residents of the 114-unit complex obtained by The Oregonian.
“It’s unfair to all of you who have no role in politics or in my administration,” Wheeler added, saying it would be “best for me and for everyone else’s safety and peace” for him to move.
Wheeler is currently running for re-election and would generally be considered a favorite, having come in just below the 50 percent threshold needed in the primary process to avoid a runoff — although this was before the death of Floyd and the attendant protests which followed.
Whatever the case, it’s unclear where he plans to live for the next four years where his neighbors won’t be disturbed if protesters come to his home. Taking up residence in a secluded castle high above the city tends to be off-putting to your constituents and living in a different complex or a house on a residential block just disrupts a different set of people.
Meanwhile Krewson, the mayor of St. Louis, has bumbled her way through the protests in a different fashion. In fact, some of the things she’s done might otherwise seem reasonable given the circumstances.
She quickly did away with a CHAZ/CHOP-like encampment outside of St. Louis City Hall called “Camp Krewson,” for instance. She also dismissed calls early on in the protests to rename the city of St. Louis and take down the statue of its namesake, rightly calling them “a distraction to a lot of hard work that we all need to do.”
The biggest point of contention activists have with the mayor isn’t that, however, but a June Facebook Live appearance in which she read letters she’d gotten from individuals who wanted her administration to defund police — along with their names and addresses.
One would assume that few watching a livestream of Mayor Krewson addressing constituents about defunding the police would be the type to use that information in an untoward way, but given the nature of the moment, this probably wasn’t a spectacular idea. Krewson apologized and the Facebook Live stream was taken down, but that still didn’t quell the anger.
Protesters have showed up at Krewson’s home several times, most recently in August. One such demonstration on June 28 made national news after lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who live nearby, were filmed outside their residence with guns in an incident that became a flash-point over Second Amendment and self-defense rights.
Either way, protesting outside of Krewson’s home now appears to be a waste of time, as she hasn’t lived there since July, she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“We have not lived at home for 2 months,” Krewson said Wednesday in a text to the outlet. “We did it to deescalate the situation, to save police resources, and importantly because our neighbors were being disturbed and threatened.”
The mayor said that “for me it comes with the territory.”
“I ran for this job — my neighbors did not,” she added.
No word at the moment about whether her new neighbors ran for the job and what she’ll do if the protesters suss out where she’s been staying.
Again, the situations in Portland and St. Louis aren’t entirely analogous. All happy governments are alike; each unhappy jurisdiction is unhappy in its own way.
However, neither Krewson nor Wheeler has shown any particular interest in serious moves toward law and order, instead putting out metaphorical and literal fires as they happen and hoping they die out. They haven’t, and now neither mayor thinks it’s fair to their neighbors to remain in their current domicile.
It’s unlikely that this will de-escalate the situation in the long term, however. In fact, both of these mayors could be making the situation worse.
Lawless protesters now know driving politicians out of their homes works. It may be a dirty tactic, but no one’s doubting its efficacy now.
Both mayors have backed down — the same way they’ve done countless times since these protests began.
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