Portland mayor teargassed at protest against federal crackdown

Reports of camouflaged federal officers snatching up Portland protesters in unmarked vehicles has sparked a new wave of protests in the US city

Portland (AFP) - The mayor of Portland was teargassed Wednesday night as he met with demonstrators protesting against police brutality and the deployment of federal troops into US cities ordered by President Donald Trump.   

AFP footage showed Democratic mayor Ted Wheeler wearing goggles and a facemask and being led away from a crowd as clouds of gas and fireworks exploded nearby.

"I’m not going to lie — it stings; it’s hard to breathe," Wheeler told The New York Times. "And I can tell you with 100 percent honesty, I saw nothing which provoked this response."

"This is an egregious overreaction on the part of the federal officers," Wheeler told the Times. "This is flat-out urban warfare."

Thousands of protestors took to the streets Wednesday night, according to NBC affiliate KGW8, in the latest round of protests that were initially sparked by the killing in May of African-American George Floyd. 

The city's police department said protestors had thrown flares and incendiary devices into the federal courthouse, causing small fires in the compound.

It later declared a state of riot in the area outside the Justice Center and ordered protesters to disperse immediately. 

Wheeler is unpopular with many protesters in Portland because city police themselves had in the past used teargas to put down demonstrations, until a judge limited use of the tactic.

As he walked through the crowd Wednesday night, people called for his resignation and chanted "Tear gas Teddy," the Times said. 

"A lot of these people hate my guts," Wheeler told the paper.

Earlier protests in Portland -- and much of the United States -- to denounce racism and police brutality following the death of Floyd at the hands of a white police officer, began losing steam at the start of July.

But then reports emerged of camouflaged federal officers snatching Portland protestors and taking them away in unmarked vehicles. 

Now the demonstrations have ramped up, with thousands showing up daily to face off against police well into the night.

Wheeler has previously called for the withdrawal of federal officers from the northwestern US city, accusing them of dangerously escalating the situation with abusive and unconstitutional tactics against protestors.

© Agence France-Presse