Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s dining plans continue to be disrupted, as the mayor was once again confronted by an individual at a restaurant on Sunday, January 24. According to KOIN, which broke the news, Wheeler was leaving the Hillsdale McMenamins, where he had just finished dining with former Mayor Sam Adams, around 8 p.m. when he was confronted by a protester accusing him of breaking social-distancing rules. The protester, a middle-aged white male who, according to Wheeler, was not wearing a mask, followed him to his car. Wheeler then sprayed him with pepper spray.
Portland Mercury reporter Alex Zielinski asked the mayor about the incident during Monday morning’s press conference, and he responded that he had filed a police report. According to the report as cited by the Mercury, Wheeler was concerned for his safety and about the possibility of contracting COVID-19. After pepper-spraying him, the mayor reportedly threw him a water bottle “so that he could wash out his eyes with water.”
Audio from Adams’s phone — retrieved by the Willamette Week — shows that the individual accuses Wheeler and Adams of not social distancing while dining, and then tells Wheeler “Thanks for ruining our city.” After a moment of garbled noise, Wheeler tells the individual that he is only a foot from him, not six feet. The protester then says, “You just pepper-sprayed me for literally no reason at all.”
“You were, like, a foot from him,” Adams is heard saying. “He asked you to back away and you didn’t.”
This isn’t the first time this month that the mayor has been waylaid while dining outdoors. In early January, a protester confronted Wheeler in a Northwest Portland tented dining area. Most of the accusations leveled at him by members of the public during these confrontations have been about his role as police commissioner — over the summer, police used large amounts of tear gas against Portland citizens of all ages during ongoing protests against police brutality and racial violence. Anger with the mayor for his role grew enough that one protester created his own line of hot sauce, aptly named Tear Gas Ted’s.
A McMenamins representative opted to not provide a comment on the incident, and Wheeler’s office has yet to respond to request for comment.