Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty apologized for claiming police are sending ‘saboteurs’ to infiltrate anti-racism demonstrations to start fires that have lit up the city on many of the 56 consecutive nights of protests.
Hardesty’s apology came amid continued civil unrest in Oregon’s largest city as protesters clash with both local police and federal agents, who’ve struggled to quell activists.
Just last night, federal agents hit Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler with tear gas after the elected official received an icy reception from protesters.
Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty (pictured) apologized Wednesday evening for her claim the Portland police were setting fires around the city
Hardesty said that she believed authorities were infiltrating anti-racism demonstrations as ‘justification for attacking community members’
Protesters dropped shrapnel at Wheeler’s feet, demanding federal agents be kicked out of Portland and the local police department be defunded.
And outrage from Oregon officials and residents continued to swell over federal agents without identification, and in several cases an explanation, detaining protesters in unmarked minivans.
‘I want people to know that I do not believe there’s any protesters in Portland that are setting fires, that are creating crisis,’ Hardesty said on Wednesday during an online Emergency National Briefing hosted by the Western States Center.
‘I absolutely believe it’s police action, and they’re sending saboteurs and provocateurs into peaceful crowds so they justify their inhumane treatment of people who are standing up for their rights.
Hardesty doubled down on her stance in a new interview with Marie Claire.
‘I believe Portland Police [Bureau] is lying about the damage—or starting the fires themselves—so that they have justification for attacking community members.’
Hardesty: ”I absolutely believe it’s police action, and they’re sending saboteurs and provocateurs into peaceful crowds so they justify their inhumane treatment of people who are standing up for their rights’
Between May 29 and July 2, the Portland Fire & Rescue Bureau, where Hardesty sits as fire commissioner, recorded 144 fires attributed to civil unrest
A growing fire is seen near the barricaded perimeter around the federal courthouse on Wednesday
Protesters in Oregon burned an American flag this week while setting up the Chinook Land Autonomous Territory outside the Multnomah County Justice Center on Tuesday
The remarks garnered swift criticism for being unsubstantiated and received push back from local law enforcement groups.
Hardesty released her apology later Wednesday night and said she made the remarks while struck with great emotion.
‘Today I let my emotions get the most of me during council and the comment I made to the press. But I’m angry, frustrated and horrified by what has happened these past 50 days,’ she wrote, according to Oregon Live.
‘I’m angry that even as a city commissioner, I am coming up against countless barriers from protecting Portlanders from the deluge of tear gas, pepper spray and other munitions on a nightly basis.
Hardesty said being a child of the Civil Rights movement led her to believe the claims could be true.
‘As a child of the Civil Rights movement, it is my experience – and those who studied history know this too – that in justice movements and mass protests, people have been sent to infiltrate these spaces to create incidents that justify enhancing police actions,’ she wrote.
But Hardesty added that ‘using unfounded claims and misinformation is something no one in any position of power should do.’
Hardesty apologized for ‘using unfounded claims and misinformation,’ but did not stop her attacks against federal agents in Portland
Pictured: : A protester uses an umbrella to block pepper balls while clashing with federal officers at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland
‘And you deserve better. I appreciate the reminder that as a public servant I need to be careful making statements out of misinformation, and I take this to heart.
‘I hope this is something Portland Police Bureau will also remember as they put out nightly statements regarding the protests, their conduct and their involvement with federal officers, because we can all agree lives are on the line.’
Her comments targeting Portland police for local fires angered the Portland Police Association and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell.
PPA President Daryl Turner demanded Hardesty ‘immediately produce’ evidence for the ‘outlandish accusation.’
The city council passed new policies Wednesday, banning all Portland police bureau members from cooperating with federal agents as city officials want to rid the city of the troops sent in by Trump.
Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner demanded Hardesty ‘immediately produce’ evidence for her ‘outlandish accusation’ in a statement shared to Facebook
Portland Police Chief also scrutinized Hardesty and remarks on Twitter, adding that he also was curious about her evidence
Lovell: ‘I’m disappointed that an elected official would make a statement like this without providing specific facts to support it. This allegation is completely false’
‘With statements like this, it has become completely clear that Commissioner Hardesty is part of the problem in Portland,’ wrote Turner.
‘Every one of the many videos we have seen confirms that small groups of rioters are starting the fires and trying to burn down buildings. Even a quick search of Twitter shows rioters setting the fires and boldly claiming responsibility.
Turner then added that Hardesty reportedly turned down invitations to stand with officers on the front lines of protest, and suggested she used her privilege as a politician to hijack the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘Politicians bent on power, perpetuating misinformation and untruths, are just as guilty of using their privilege to hijack this movement as the rioters who are committing violent acts, burning, and looting,’ wrote Turner.
‘Both actions are causing destruction and chaos at a time when our communities are pleading for leadership and meaningful change.’
Chief Lovell shared a similar sentiment that admitted he was ‘disappointed’ that Hardesty was spread the unfounded claim.
‘Commissioner Hardesty’s statement that police officers would commit the crime of arson in order to precipitate their violation of people’s civil rights strains credulity. I am interested in seeing what evidence she has to support her accusations,’ wrote Lovell.
‘I’m disappointed that an elected official would make a statement like this without providing specific facts to support it. This allegation is completely false.’
Protesters walk through chemical irritants dispersed by federal agents at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse early Thursday morning
A protester extinguishes a fire set by fellow protesters outside the Portland federal courthouse on Wednesday night
Footage of small fires burning outside the Portland federal courthouse and protesters torching the American flag have swarmed social media.
The Portland Fire & Rescue Bureau, where Hardesty sits as fire commissioner, recorded 144 fires attributed to civil unrest between May 29 and July 2.
Fires began sparking across the United States after the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Over the last several weeks, as tensions in Portland boiled over and captured the nation’s attention, Hardesty has been increasingly critical of Mayor Wheeler, President Trump and other federal agencies.
Hardesty is one of many Oregon officials who’ve repeatedly asked Trump to remove federal agents after he deployed them without their consent.
The President said he would deploy agents to Chicago and Albuquerque, once again flexing his preference for a militarized, heavy-handed response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was lambasted by both Commissioner Hardesty and President Trump for his recent handling of anti-racism protests
Protesters throw tear gas canisters back inside the perimeter of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse after they were launched in the crowd by federal agents
A federal officer points a less-lethal weapon toward a crowd of a few hundred protesters in front of the Mark O. Hatfield US Courthouse early Thursday morning
In Twitter posts from last week, Hardesty joined Trump and Republicans in blasting Mayor Wheeler’s handling of demonstrations that have resulted in damage of federal buildings, arrests and injuries on both sides of the line.
‘Mayor Ted Wheeler, I’ve had enough. If you can’t control the police, give me the Portland Police Bureau,’ she wrote with a full statement attached.
In a thread, Hardesty described attending a peaceful protest with singing and a candlelight vigil when ‘there was another unprovoked brutal attack by our federal government.’
‘Mayor Wheeler, I’m sick of writing these statements day after day. We know that Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner met with DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. We know Portland Police are collaborating with this federal occupying force,’ wrote Hardesty.
‘You are putting our community in danger. You are putting my staff in danger. We need you to be better. We need you to stop denying the violence being perpetrated by our own police force.
‘And make it clear and unambiguous: Portland police are directed from the top to never collaborate with 45’s goon squad, to take off their riot gear, and to stop contributing to the violence that was occurring before the feds arrived and still continues night after night.’
Hardesty last week released a statement where she told Mayor Wheeler she would takeover the police department if he couldn’t control it
Hardesty also said she wants to be in charge of the Portland Police Bureau and hinted that she will disclose why soon
During his appearance, Wheeler promised that he would continue to try and get federal agents out of Portland. ‘I am doing everything in my power to get them to leave,’ he told protesters
A Twitter post on Tuesday said Hardesty wanted to takeover the Portland Police Bureau and hinted that she would further explain her reasoning at a later date.
‘I want to be in charge of the Portland Police Bureau so I can enact this vision. I’ll put my expertise & resume up against anyone on this issue. In the coming days, I will explain how I arrived at the conclusion that the best way to get there is by being directly in charge of PPB,’ she wrote.
Hardesty also accused federal agents were intentionally targeting sanctuary cities.
‘I asked the mayor, “Who do you think they’re grabbing off the street?” said Hardesty.
‘And he says, “Well, a sanctuary city just means we don’t work with ICE.” And I said, “well, who do you think the border patrol works with?” So we have an ignorance at the highest levels in our city government.
‘People who just assume that if the police say it happened, it really happened.’
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as acting Secretary Chad Wolf, have shared instances of large crowds launching fireworks, Molotov cocktails and other objects at the federal courthouse.
‘Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it,’ said Wolf in a statement last week.
A federal office points a pepperball gun at a protester while dispersing a crowd in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on Wednesday in Portland
Protesters have responded with disturbing stories of tear gas, less-lethal munitions, stun grenades and what many have declared unconstitutional arrests.
The latest fire incident allegedly involved Joseph James Ybarra, 21, who appeared in court on Wednesday afternoon for attempted arson.
Federal prosecutors claimed that Ybarra and one other man threw a Molotov cocktail at the front of the Portland courthouse around 3am on Wednesday.
Surveillance footage captured the moment and Ybarra, who told Oregon Live he lived in a tent in Southeast Portland, confirmed it was him on camera holding the Molotov cocktail.
Joseph James Ybarra (pictuerd in mugshot) was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail at a federal building
He told a federal officer he pulled the stunt because he thought it was cool. Ybarra was arrested by the US Marshals Service and remains in custody.
Much of Wednesday night’s attention was focused on Mayor Wheeler, who attended his first anti-racism protest and was ostracized by his citizens.
At one point, Wheeler was left struggling to breathe when federal agents hit him with tear gas.
Mayor Ted Wheeler scrambled to put goggles on after the noxious gas was used on crowds of Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrating against police brutality for the 56th night following the death of George Floyd who took his last breath under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25.
Wheeler told The New York Times: ‘I’m not going to lie — it stings; it’s hard to breathe. And I can tell you with 100 per cent honesty, I saw nothing which provoked this response.’
During his appearance, Wheeler promised that he would continue to try and get federal agents out of Portland.
‘I am doing everything in my power to get them to leave,’ he told protesters in footage captured by OPB.
Wheeler was met with outrage from the crowd chanting ‘Ted must go’, swearing at him and calling for his resignation.
Wheeler reacts after being exposed to tear gas fired by federal officers while attending a protest against police brutality and racial injustice in front of the Mark O. Hatfield US Courthouse on Wednesday
One man walked up and emptied a bag full of shrapnel in front of him causing Wheeler to stop in his tracks, while another came up behind him and put a police hat on his head which he swiftly removed.
Several people held banners aloft reading ‘Tear gas Ted’ and ‘Hey Ted, no more tear gas’.
Wheeler spoke into a microphone telling protesters he was there to hold a ‘listening session’ where he wanted to hear their views.
Crowds pushed forward as he urged them to ‘step back’ to prevent ‘crushing’.
‘I thought this was going to be a listening session not me doing all the talking,’ he said as he faced a barrage of questions.
When asked by one protester about the police allegedly working with Proud Boys, where he said ‘it would be appalling to me personally’ if this was true.
Members of Wheeler’s security staff fight to close a door to The Portland Building after protesters followed and heckled the mayor when he left the protest
Wheeler was met by angry crowds who chanted and held banners reading ‘tear gas Ted’, as hundreds gathered for another demonstration on Wednesday
The Proud Boys is a far-right neo-fascist organization that admits only men and encourages political violence.
Protesters also raised concerns about the powers of Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner.
‘I can not regulate Daryl Turner. He’s a union official,’ said Wheeler.
Meanwhile, federal officials are also blasting the actions of protesters, with at least three federal agents in Portland being blinded in an altercation this week.
Authorities said the three agents may never recover their vision after it was damaged when people shone lasers in their eyes and threw fireworks toward at the city’s federal courthouse earlier in the week.
On Monday night, one person also allegedly threatened to cut off the water supply to federal officers inside the building.