Portland's Mayor Ted Wheeler
© REUTERS / Caitlin Ochs
Portland's Mayor Ted Wheeler attends a protest rally.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler failed to win over a crowd of angry anti-police protesters despite rooting for their cause. But rather than seeing him as an ally against federal agents, some said he's part of the problem and has to go.

Nightly protests in Portland focused around a downtown federal courthouse have been raging for over 50 nights. The confrontations regularly escalate into rioting, and have become more volatile since the Trump administration deployed additional federal law enforcement agents to the city last week. Mayor Wheeler, who has been sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter cause, criticized the federal agents for using controversial tactics in their crackdown.

On Wednesday night, the mayor appeared before an angry crowd of around 2,000 demonstrators, who gathered behind a large fence erected around the courthouse to keep them away from the building. The reception was lukewarm at best from the start. Some people shouted, "Quit your job" as he walked towards the center of the rally, while one protester emptied a bag of trash under his feet.

Wheeler held a "listening session," answering questions from the crowd, though some angry activists called him a racist and "Fed Wheeler," saying he didn't deserve to be heard by them. The mayor expressed his dislike of crow-control munitions, which the law enforcement officers have routinely used against the protesters, and said his office was seeking legal ways to oust the agents from the city, while encouraging the people to continue what they're doing.

However, despite calls from the activists, he refused to abolish the Portland Police Bureau, which he heads as commissioner. As he was speaking, somebody projected a list of demands on the wall behind his back, one of which said "You, Ted Wheeler, need to resign."

Later, the mayor moved to the steps of the nearby Justice Center to address the rally in a speech. "The reason I am here tonight is to stand with you," Wheeler said. "So, if they're launching the tear gas against you, they're launching the tear gas against me."

Some people cheered, while others remained unconvinced, asking the mayor what took him so long to show up, or simply shouted invectives at him.

Meanwhile, half a block away, protesters rattled the fence protecting the federal courthouse and lit fires as federal officers inside the building responded with tear gas.

Wheeler, wearing a mask and protective goggles, delivered on his promise to personally face the federal response. He called it an "egregious overreaction" and "urban warfare."

As he was leaving the scene, some protesters continued to throw water and curse at him.