PORTLAND: The mayor of the protest-hit US city of Portland, Oregon on Thursday ordered city police to stop using tear gas for crowd control purposes.
The northwestern city has endured more than 100 days of demonstrations against racism and police brutality.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, has been fiercely criticized by “Black Lives Matter” and anti-fascist activists that have been in the streets since the death of George Floyd, the African-American man who died gasping for air under the knee of a white police officer in late May in the city of Minneapolis.
In his dual job as mayor and chief of police, Wheeler has been criticized for failing to meet commitments to reduce racial discrimination and police brutality, which demonstrators believe especially target racial minorities.
“It’s time for everyone to reduce the violence in our community. We all want change. We all have the opportunity and obligation to create change. We all want to focus on the fundamental issue at hand – justice for Black people and all people of color,“ Wheeler said in a brief taped announcement.
“That’s why, as Police Commissioner, effective immediately and until further notice, I am directing the Portland Police to end the use of CS gas for crowd control,“ he said.
During the last hundred days city, county and state police have relied on tear gas “where there is a threat to life safety. We need something different. We need it now,“ Wheeler said.
The nightly protests, held in different parts of Portland – sometimes even residential areas – often end in thick clouds of tear gas.
On September 5 police broke up a crowd marching towards a police station with a rolling barrage of tear gas.
Hundreds of residents, many of them families with children, found the smell of the gas seeping into their living rooms and bedrooms.
Wheeler was excoriated on social media following the incident.
However many of the officers in the September 5 incident were state police who do not answer to the mayor but to the governor, and are not subject to the ban.
On social media activists on Thursday were baffled by Wheeler’s announcement.
Separately, Portland on Wednesday banned the use of facial recognition technology by all city departments, including the police. — AFP