You couldn’t have paid me to go to Portland last summer. While riots occurred pretty much everywhere, they were particularly long-lasting there. Even after the rest of the nation started to settle down, Portland had riots continue nightly for months.
It wasn’t a good scene, to be sure.
This was especially problematic because the Portland Police Department didn’t really do anything. The city mandated a hands-off approach to the rioters.
Now, the mayor believes that might have been a mistake.
“It is clear, based on the public outcry, on the media outcry, on the national front, that that strategy was not the right strategy,” Wheeler said during a Portland City Council meeting, according to The Associated Press.
“I think we can all acknowledge that,” he added. “I take full responsibility for it.”
He said Portland was still “trying to find the right recipe” for handling riots – seeking a solution somewhere between an “overwhelming police presence” and restrained law enforcement, the AP reported.
Let’s file this under, “No s***, Sherlock.”
Honestly, it should have been clear from the start this was a terrible idea. While you may not need to send police officers into a riot to bust skulls, a hands-off approach really doesn’t do much of anything besides encourage the behavior.
Rioters will see someone burn a building and the police do nothing, so they’ll burn another one. In their mind, the lack of a police response is simply evidence of the righteousness of their cause. They’ll justify it any way they can so that they’re the heroes of their own stories.
And Wheeler is to blame for this. It’s good that he takes responsibility for it, but that’s not really going to change what happened. Especially since a drunk kindergartner could have told you this was a trainwreck in the making. Wheeler, however, doesn’t have the intellect of an intoxicated five-year-old.
Wheeler, however, isn’t really accepting full responsibility. If he did, he’d fall on his own sword. Figuratively, at least. He’d resign his position and admit that he was responsible for millions upon millions in property damage and may well have helped inflame political tensions all across the nation because he was more worried about rioters’ feelings than about maintaining his city’s peace.
Instead, he’ll probably get a pass from the Portland electorate who generally agreed with the rioters but might not necessarily have approved of their methods. They’ll shrug, say, “No big deal, Ted,” then let him keep on running for whatever.
Meanwhile, groups like Antifa still believe they have a safe haven in Portland. They believe it because they do, and Wheeler’s admission has done nothing to convince them otherwise. They know they can still do what they want when they want.
Frankly, Wheeler needs to understand that allowing people to have their say is good and noble. The moment they start damaging property, they stop being protestors and become rioters and they need to be arrested.
It’s not rocket surgery, for crying out loud.