Not Woke Enough: Rioters Set Fire to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's Apartment Complex


For those of you unfamiliar with the Golden Raspberry Awards, they’re pretty much the anti-Academy Awards. The ceremony is designed to recognize cinematic ignominy, “honoring” the Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Supporting Actor and so on for each filmic year.

I don’t know if there are any such awards for politicians. (For that matter, I can’t think of any Academy Awards-comparable ceremony for politicians, although Time’s “Person of the Year” will frequently do.) If so, they might just want to skip 2020. If they don’t, however, I offer for their consideration Ted Wheeler, the Democratic mayor of Portland, Oregon, in the category of Worst Major Local Politician.

There have been scores of local politicians who haven’t been able to get anything under control since George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police on May 25, but Wheeler stands out if just because of the visibility of the chaos in his city and his consistent denial that the city is in chaos.

Wheeler’s insufferable wokeness hasn’t been enough to save him from the woker demographic.

For instance, last Friday, he sent President Donald Trump an open letter chastising him for having the gall to offer assistance to Portland to stop the looting and burning.

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“There is no place for looting, arson, or vandalism in our city,” Wheeler wrote. “There is no room here for racist violence or those who wish to bring their ideology of hate into our community. Those who commit criminal acts will be apprehended and prosecuted under the law.”

He went on to blame Trump for the violence, claiming the administration’s decision to send in federal troops to protect a federal courthouse his department clearly couldn’t protect “made the situation far worse.”

“In Portland, we are focused on coming together as a community to solve the serious challenges we face due to systemic racism, a global pandemic and an economic recession,” Wheeler concluded. “Stay away, please.”

On Monday, Portland police were forced to declare a riot — again — after protesters marching to the mayor’s home threw burning debris into the building where he lives.

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According to The Oregonian, the march attracted over 200 people, all of whom were demanding that Wheeler resign. Their complaints are the usual ones.

First, while Wheeler has helped shepherd through measures to move money away from the Portland Police Bureau, it wasn’t enough, if just because it never is.

Second, under Portland’s commission-style government, city officials act as commissioners of various departments. Under this arrangement, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, Wheeler appointed himself the PPB commissioner. That makes him responsible for having to oversee a police department that occasionally has the temerity to enforce the law as it pertains to violent demonstrators.

Thus, we saw this on Monday night:

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“The demonstration quickly turned destructive as some in the crowd lit a fire in the street, then placed a picnic table from a nearby business on top of the fire to feed the blaze,” The Oregonian reported.

“People shattered windows and broke into a ground-floor dental office took items including a chair, also added to the fire, and office supplies.”

Around 11 p.m., the burning material — a bundle of newspapers set aflame — was thrown into a storefront in Wheeler’s 114-unit condo complex.

As it turns out, Monday was Wheeler’s birthday. Rioters wore party hats, according to KATU-TV. They also brought fireworks with them, assumedly not for celebratory purposes:

And then there were the demonstrators who set a fire in a garbage can while dancing to “Macarena,” proving terrible people have terrible taste, too.

Roughly 20 people were arrested during the protest, although not the attempted arsonist.

Wheeler shared his thoughts on this on social media; whatever sympathy might have been generated by the fact radicals tried to burn down the building he lived in was attenuated by the weakness of his condemnation of the act:

There are two things to note here.

First, he described how a “minority-owned, local business was destroyed by a violent group of individuals.” What type of violent group of individuals? Rest assured, were this the Proud Boys, Wheeler would be very upfront about the fact it was a far-right organization.

Also: “The violence must stop.” Wheeler denied any agency here, despite the fact that he’s both mayor and police commissioner.

Perhaps he’s admitting that doing the latter role effectively might interfere with his ability to keep the former job. Wheeler is up for re-election in 2020, having narrowly missed the 50 percent barrier needed to avoid a runoff in the general election during the primary, according to The Oregonian. That primary was held May 19, however, six days before Floyd’s death thousands of miles away changed Wheeler’s fortunes significantly.

Whatever the case, he has to acknowledge that for many Portlanders, as long as the violence doesn’t directly affect them, cracking down on it will only embolden his opponent, Sarah Iannarone.

Here’s one of the things her campaign’s official Twitter account retweeted:

At least Wheeler has the support of the media, who want to make sure Trump and conservatives can’t use Portland as an example. Here’s CNN’s Brian Stelter talking about the issue, along with Steven Crowder’s rejoinder.

They did. And he’ll make only the most desultory attempts to stop it.

There’s clearly a place for a controlled level of looting, arson and vandalism in Wheeler’s city, if just evinced by his lack of desire to stop it.

Perhaps it’s time for Wheeler to accept Trump’s help if he can’t do it alone. If he can, then he’s admitting that he won’t.

Either way, if that Worst Major Local Politician award does exist somewhere out there, I hope Mayor Wheeler has his acceptance speech ready.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture