After man drives into crowd, Mayor Wheeler says protestors ‘shouldn’t whine’ at consequences of defying police orders

Screenshot of @ComradeCamera post to X on May 2.

Off-script comments made by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler during a City Council meeting last week have sparked concern. Wheeler said that since participants at a protest at Portland State University didn’t leave the area after being told to do so by the Portland Police Bureau, the protestors, “Shouldn’t whine, complain, and cry when there are consequences.”

The “consequences” in this specific instance were a reference to concerns shared by Christopher Olson in council testimony shared just minutes prior to Wheeler’s comments. Olson, who’s running for city council, was at a May 2nd protest on the campus of Portland State University when a man drove a car into a pedestrian-only zone and accelerated toward the crowd.

You can watch the exchange below.

According to video taken at the scene (also below), the driver of the white Toyota sedan didn’t hit anyone and stopped prior to making contact with a large crowd that was there to protest Israel’s bombing of Palestinians in Gaza. While he appears to have had second thoughts about hurtling his vehicle into the crowd, the driver clearly intended to cause a confrontation. Not only did he enter a carfree zone of campus (on SW Hall just west of Broadway), but prior to arriving at the PSU campus, the driver posted on social media, “On my way,” and a middle finger emoji along with tagging PSU’s campus newspaper. There was a metal baton on his dashboard and he was driving a rented car with a license plate cover that read, “We the people.”

Once on campus, the driver was confronted by the crowd and ran away from his vehicle while shooting pepper spray (see video above). He was later picked up by PSU campus police. I’m not aware of his current status.

At city council last week, Olson testified against giving the Portland Police Bureau $1.1 million to buy crowd control munitions and related training. Olson said in testimony he witnessed the driver, “barreling toward the crowd of students,” in an “attempted slaughter” that could have been “another Charlottesville.”  In Charlottesville in 2017, a man drove his car into a protest and killed one person and injured 30 others and was later given a life sentence and charged with a hate crime.

The incident on PSU came just two weeks after U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) posted on X, “I encourage people who get stuck behind the pro-Hamas mobs blocking traffic: take matters into your own hands to get them out of the way.”

Given the rise in vehicular violence at protests in Portland, heightened political tensions among Americans, and ahead of what is likely to be a busy protest season in Portland, Mayor Wheeler’s surprising comments shocked many observers. “Big yikes (at council today),” wrote Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Alex Zielinski when she read Wheeler’s words.

Here’s the full text of Wheeler’s comments:

“I was interested in the public testimony we heard for the simple reason that the Portland Police Bureau had speakers asking people to leave [before the driver showed up] in fact, insisting that people leave for the better part of an hour, and they chose not to. That is an act of defiance, and you are entitled to that act of defiance. But then you shouldn’t whine, complain and cry when there are consequences for that act of defiance.”

You can watch video of Olson’s comments, followed by Wheeler’s response several minutes later, on YouTube.

Wheeler’s comments were picked up today by right-wing agitator Andy Ngô, who posted to X that, “In his final year in office, Wheeler has shown more willingness to push back against the extreme far-left.”

In 2020, when Donald Trump supporters descended on downtown Portland and maced protestors out of the windows of their vehicles, I shared my disappointment that Wheeler nor the former PPB Chief seemed to care. The use of vehicles as weapons is on the rise and it will very likely happen again. Elected officials should do everything in their power to address the issue instead of carelessly pointing a finger and blaming victims.

I’ve reached out to Wheeler’s office and PSU Campus Safety for comments and will update this post when I hear back.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

Thanks for reading.

BikePortland has served this community with independent community journalism since 2005. We rely on subscriptions from readers like you to survive. Your financial support is vital in keeping this valuable resource alive and well.

Please subscribe today to strengthen and expand our work.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

64 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
R
R
1 month ago

My Kiddical Mass & Bike Summer kickoff ride included having someone in stopped vehicle not be remorseful after nearly hitting my toddler while we were walking in a crosswalk. The contrast with what we saw on our way home when we had to cross the starlight parade route shows the city government ‘s priorities. <B>Every single intersection along the parade route had occupied city dump trucks with a full load of gravel physically blocking vehicle access the parade route.</b>. The powers in Portland’s municipal government know what’s necessary, they just don’t care most of the time.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  R

Yes, the city prioritizes the safety of the tens of thousands of parade attendees, as vehicle-based terrorism can and has killed people in this country. The trucks are to prevent incidents like that. Would you expect the city to install dozens of city vehicles at every intersection and posted police to divert traffic for your bike ride? Have you contacted the city about applying for a parade permit?

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

Great point, but does the city prioritize safety in the same way for Sunday Parkways? Clearly it doesn’t. R’s point is a good one: the city picks and chooses which people get Grade A safety treatment.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

I’ve worked intersections for Parkways several times, and it would be great if the city gave more safety resources to the events. Sadly, it is a shadow of its former self. We used to have events in every quadrant.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

I was in NYC for the Five Boros Bike Tour a month ago. The city closes 40 miles of roads to cars, police presence at nearly every intersection, municipal garbage trucks blocking many side streets. It was inspiring to see how a city can support cycling. And depressing to see how pitiful Portland’s efforts are.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Michael Mann

And they were doing it in the 1990s too. It almost has the feel of the marathon (not quite). But I must have participated because I can tell you that the Queensboro bridge is really steep. My husband used to throw our then two-year old on the back of the bike and head out.

comment image

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

It’s not really that amazing that NYC, that most attractive of terrorism targets (with security budgets to match), will treat a showcase event with 32K participants differently than another city treats a ride in a provincial city with… how many participants on Kiddical Mass?

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

My point is that the city government could do better than they do. Actually, it would take almost nothing to be an improvement over what we now have.
One example: I have volunteered for most Sunday Parkways events since #1 in NoPo 17 years ago. We used to get support from PPB. Then, a few years ago, paying the overtime was no longer in the budget. We immediately felt the effects on the ground in increased hostility from a small but dangerous number of drivers blowing through the route. For events like Sunday Parkways, a couple officers on motorcycles slowly patrolling the route can make a world of difference.

OGB
OGB
28 days ago
Reply to  Watts

The funding for PPB has increased quite a bit in the last several years yet they’re giving the city less. There’s less traffic enforcement, etc.

Andrew S
Andrew S
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

Maybe not trucks, but I do think that dozens of permanent concrete barriers to divert traffic for safety so toddlers can safely cross the street every day are appropriate. The fact that drivers can be a-holes to toddlers on Sunday parkway and kiddical mass routes certainly exposes safety gaps on our neighborhood streets.

Jimmie Jaworski
Jimmie Jaworski
1 month ago

Jonathan,
This isn’t the gotcha that you think it is. I’m guessing most Portlanders (outside of the BP echo chamber) agree with Wheeler on this one. Cleary this guy was in the wrong but so were the people not listening to the police. It takes “two to tango” as my Grandma always said.

Chris
Chris
1 month ago

Last I recall, the tango is not a dance between a multi-thousand pound vehicle and delicate human bodies. This is not a balanced perspective. Attacking people on-foot with a car is unjustifiable.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

You are just wrong, Jimmie. When is it EVER okay to threaten people on foot with a two-ton automobile?

Please see a counselor who can help you rearrange your moral priorities.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

Fred,
Did the commenter say it was okay to threaten people with an automobile?
Here’s what I read:
“Cleary this guy was in the wrong…”

Andrew S
Andrew S
1 month ago
Reply to  Angus Peters

Jimmie saying “clearly this guy was in the wrong” is like saying “bless their heart” when insulting someone. Ultimately meaningless in context. What’s clear is that many people (Jimmie included) seem to think that vehicular violence, even premeditated, is a justifiable response to people “not listening to police.”

If there are legal/civil consequences for the actions of a demonstrator or anyone else, that’s fine. All folks are entitled to due process. Vigilante violence is not due process.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew S

Bless y’all’s hearts, I’m going to head out for a community bike ride after the thunderstorm passes by! It’s nice to know we can now blame dangerous homicidal driving on political protests and not on bad homicidal drivers.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago

Given that one party was in a multi-ton weapon, and was discharging a weapon (bear mace), and instigated the incident, this is like someone describing a large man beating his wife with a weapon as “it takes two to tango”.

OGB
OGB
28 days ago

The driver was in a car-free area. Shouldn’t that be the end of the discussion? There would likely have been pedestrians whether a protest was happening or not. Also did the PPB have a legal reason to tell protesters they’re excluded? The context of what happened earlier isn’t apparent, except that protesters were ordered to disperse (it may have been a lawful or unlawful order).

William McGair
William McGair
1 month ago

It’s a huge stretch to say he “drove into the crowd” given the video here. More like he drove kind of near the crowd and they had the hysterically dramatic fake heroic reaction to it that they’ve always wanted to have, and assaulted him. ***portion of comment deleted by moderator . We don’t allow personal insults***. Elect him and enjoy the chaos and scandals.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

But the people weren’t just ‘being in the way’. They were defying lawful police orders. An important detail you manage to gloss over.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

Regardless of why the people were there, this is literally a sidewalk. This ***personal insult deleted. Come on people, please find other ways to make your points.*** drove his car onto a sidewalk towards a crowd. I think we should be able to overlook the politics of this and go after the obviously guilty aggressor here.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

That’s not an important detail, it’s irrelevant.

If this was just a road, I would concede that’s murky. The driver would still be obviously in the wrong, and Wheeler’s remarks ridiculous. But at least then, the car is normally allowed to be there anyway.

But this wasn’t a road. It was a car free plaza. It doesn’t matter if they were protesting or just standing there, or if the cops told them to leave or not. The driver deliberately drove his weapon into a place where people were.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  William McGair

I see him discharging bear spray (assault) before anyone touches him, and then running away.

SteveBinEugene
SteveBinEugene
1 month ago

Because you didn’t follow the rules, we’re OK with any old rando threatening / attacking you, whatever. Get over it.

You should have known better than to wear that halter top.

Wheeler’s an ***please don’t make personal insults here. Be better than that***.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

Wheeler is supposedly a very smart guy, but he has a tin ear in situations that demand calm de-escalation. I voted for him and really hoped he would be a good mayor, but he has clearly shown that his judgment deserts him at crucial moments, and I for one will be glad to see the back of him in 2025. He should seek a career in the private sector where he can say any damn thing he likes.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

Funny I actually think he would have been a more effective leader if he was more outspoken and less “politically correct”. His timidity in dealing with the political extremism in Portland has not served us well. Too bad he had to wait until he is a “lame duck” to speak up.

K. Rose
K. Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Angus Peters

What do you mean by that? Because Wheeler was all too happy to come after people protesting police abuse but also all too happy to turn a blind eye to right-wing fascists in our streets.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Angus Peters

When he did speak up in this case, he took the wrong side.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

After watching the entire (brief) clip, and without further context, it appeared the driver was freaked out and was trying to get the hell out of there.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

If I remember correctly from the original article the driver was taken in for a police mental health hold. This goes back to the idea of red flag laws for drivers/people who are exhibiting mental health concerns and shouldn’t be driving.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

“Without further context” is doing some pretty heavy lifting in that sentence. I’m sure the driver who posted “on my way” on social media with a middle finger emoji was actually heading somewhere completely different with a can of bear spray and a baton and just happened to make a wrong turn past the bollards and pedestrian-only signs. An easy mistake.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Whatever the driver’s motive, I didn’t see him trying to run anyone down or assault anyone with the car, despite ample opportunity.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes, and I still get in trouble for bothering my sister, despite saying “I’m not touching you” over and over. Go figure. Also, menacing is still a crime.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago

Does Wheeler support vigilantes slashing the tires of cars illegally parked in bike lanes and crosswalks? After all, there must be consequences for such acts of defiance, right?

Earth First!
Earth First!
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

support vigilantes slashing the tires of cars illegally parked in bike lanes and crosswalks

Sadly the above is just another fantastical invention of those obsessed with crypto-authoritarian law & order.

While there are some examples of tire slashing they typically occur in residential neighborhoods and are the result of someone experiencing some sort of emotional or mental health crisis.

PTB
PTB
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Is this a common thing happening these days? I know the parking in bike lanes and crosswalks thing is, add sidewalks to that, but are lots of people getting their tires slashed??

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  PTB

I read it as irony. If Wheeler was consistent, his response to someone slashing tires would be “drivers shouldn’t whine at consequences of defying traffic laws” or something like that.

To your point, I don’t think it is common enough for Wheeler to have ever made a statement about it either way. But maybe he has?

PTB
PTB
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

Yeah, my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders yesterday I guess. Thanks, John V.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago

Wheeler’s comment epitomizes something that seems to be becoming common–focusing on the wrong thing.

My best example is coming across a person drowning in a submerged van while I was walking past a boat launch. I was looking for something to break a window with, and a kayaker had run from his car he’d just arrived in to help. Then fire and medic trucks showed up, and the crew was scrambling to save the submerged woman. Then with all this going on, the Parks parking patrol guy showed up and went straight to the kayaker’s car and started writing a ticket for non-payment.

He was correct that the guy hadn’t paid, but totally ignoring the context and focusing on the wrong thing.

Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
1 month ago

Why is it so difficult for our mayor to think there should be “consequences” for reckless and violent driving? This driver was clearly intending to do harm, based on the evidence cited and had already violated the law by driving in a car-free area.
I guess the answer is that Mayor Wheeler is more apt to identify with the violent and reckless driver as a ‘good guy’ on his own side. Which is terrifying. (Note: Wheeler infamously encouraged vigilanteism against protestors several years ago, an act that was decried at that time and then cited when a vigilante murdered June Knightly and shot several other people who were gathered in a park waiting to cork a racial justice protest. That violence, too, had links to Andy Ngo.)

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

Interesting way to drag in someone totally unrelated to any part of the conversation. I guess Ngo hasn’t had enough beatings from lefty agitators to learn him his lesson?

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

So you didn’t read the article before commenting?

Wheeler’s comments were picked up today by right-wing agitator Andy Ngô, who posted to X that, “In his final year in office, Wheeler has shown more willingness to push back against the extreme far-left.”

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  idlebytes

Yeah, I just skimmed the headline and posted some random stuff. You totally got me.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Indeed they did. Strange given your professed distaste for “snarky one liners”.

Jeff Rockshoxworthy
Jeff Rockshoxworthy
1 month ago

I tried… but I’m just not seeing how this story is relevant to cycling in Portland.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago

Try a little harder. Weaponized vehicles and leadership ignoring the danger that vehicle drivers pose to pedestrians and cyclists.

OGB
OGB
28 days ago

Directly mentioned in the article: people driving cars and having anger management issues endangering participants of Bike Summer events.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
1 month ago

But didn’t the driver also break the law by driving onto a pedestrian walkway where cars are prohibited? Also if he intended to use his car as a weapon to intimidate people isn’t that also illegal? Was he interrogated? What did he claim his intentions where and how do they reconcile with his social post and his actions of driving on a pedestrian only zone? Can’t the people be held accountable for not dispersing, but also have our leaders hold drivers that use their cars in such a threatening manner in pedestrian only zones also held accountable? Why does it have to be one of the other?

Babygorilla
Babygorilla
1 month ago

In the context of a hearing on whether the city should approve expenditures for crowd control equipment and related training, responding to a citizen that claimed the police did not do enough to protect a crowd refusing to comply with lawful police commands to disperse seems apt. A bit crass, but the point the mayor seems to be making is that unlawful gatherings have the potential to go bad and if you continue to gather after refusing dispersal orders, you don’t get to complain to the state about non-state actors harming you.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Babygorilla

And if I had gone there as a non–state actor with a firearm and started shooting into the crowd, they would have no right to complain either. If you refuse a legal order, all violence against you is now permitted, right?

Babygorilla
Babygorilla
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

No, I’d expect a shooter like that to get prosecuted if the shooter wasn’t killed in act just like I expect the driver of the vehicle in this case to get prosecuted. With some exception for clear instances of self- defense, violent acts and attempted violent acts should always get investigated / prosecuted if warranted. A better analogy for why I think the mayor’s words were harsh, but nevertheless an apt response to this citizen’s testimony in this context might be a spectator at a sideshow road takeover giving testimony that the state didn’t do enough to protect spectators from getting hit.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Babygorilla

People who watch street takeovers specifically go there to watch people driving cars recklessly. Did the protesters show up to PSU with the expectation of getting rammed by a domestic terrorist? Was that the reason for the protest in the first place?

Babygorilla
Babygorilla
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Regardless of each participant’s motivations to gather outside of a perfectly valid use of state power to remove trespassers from a college library (though I could speculate that at least some were specifically motivated to “engage with the oppressors”), I’m fairly confident that if folks had complied with requests to disperse over an hour before the incident with the vehicle, those people would not have been in harm’s way.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Babygorilla

Yes, and if I never leave my house, I won’t get mugged. Or get caught in the rain. Or step in dog doo. If I just stop breathing, I won’t get hay fever. Doing anything at all is literally just asking for whatever bad thing happens I guess.

aquaticko
aquaticko
1 month ago

What the hell is wrong with so many people in this country that people protesting a completely one-sided massacre of tens of thousands of innocents is considered a breach of public order? I swear, if the Vietnam war was happening today, we’d have most people on the pro-war side.

Something has gone deeply wrong with our national consciousness these days; some serious soul-searching is badly overdue.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  aquaticko

Fun fact: most people were on the pro-war side during Vietnam, for many years, at least. It took over 4 years for public opposition to pass the 50% threshold:

https://news.gallup.com/poll/18097/iraq-versus-vietnam-comparison-public-opinion.aspx

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

The idea that the majority of ‘murrica supported the hippies, yippies, and new left is also completely detached from reality. This society has always been one that celebrates violence and war.

aquaticko
aquaticko
1 month ago

Yes, but the thing is we now know–at least I hope enough of us–just how awful and inhumane a lot of America’s actions in Vietnam were, and that sacrificing human lives for ideological reasons–any ideological reason–is wrong. It’s wrong to repeat mistakes if you realize that’s what they were, and it’s wrong not to learn from the past, in any case.

Damien
Damien
1 month ago
Reply to  aquaticko

It’s wrong to repeat mistakes if you realize that’s what they were, and it’s wrong not to learn from the past, in any case.

I mean…we clearly are, and clearly haven’t. And we have a new generation of true believers/manufactured consenters who will likewise not be looked at kindly years from now.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  aquaticko

Comment of the week. But of course I’d say that.

Unfortunately, being against war and violence is something the USA does in hindsight. Same thing we do with people like MLK, Rosa Parks. Same with Vietname, Korea, Iraq. Years from now, people will say they were against it all along and it will be seen as an unfortunate but unstoppable tragedy. But I hope I’m wrong!

Betsy Reese
Betsy Reese
1 month ago

August 22, 2018 at 5:32 am PDT
Quote of the Year:
“I tell you, ‘Meet me after school at 3 o’clock. Right? We’re gonna fight. And I come with the intention to fight. And then you get mad because I kicked your butt. And then you go back and you wail off and whine and complain.” —Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw

She told conservative talk-radio host Lars Larson she thought the protesters were acting like children who lost a schoolyard fight and had gone of to “whine and complain” after police fired flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets and pepper spray into a crowd of demonstrators. (At least two people were sent to the hospital with serious injuries after being hit directly with stun grenades launched by police, and many more have reported being hurt.)

https://www.wweek.com/news/courts/2018/08/15/portland-police-chief-says-protesters-went-off-to-whine-and-complain-last-week-because-officers-kicked-your-butt/

https://www.wweek.com/news/courts/2018/08/22/portland-police-chief-danielle-outlaws-provocative-statements-on-talk-radio-pit-her-against-leftist-protesters/