Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, blaming "violent Antifa and anarchists" for a New Year's Eve riot in his city, is calling for tougher policing and penalties for people caught engaging in violence and vandalism.
"It's hard for most of us to even comprehend what goes on in the heads of people who think it's OK or a good idea to go on a violent rampage through the city on New Year's Eve and during a pandemic," Wheeler said Friday afternoon during a press conference, reports OPB. "It's the height of selfishness.
"There are some people who just want to watch the world burn."
The violence on New Year's Eve did not have a clear political purpose, said Wheeler, who described those committing the acts that included the use of commercial-grade fireworks, breaking windows, and lighting small fires as being mostly white, younger people.
Wheeler said the city's police are working with District Attorney Mike Schmidt to file charges against people who are responsible. He is planning a meeting, potentially next week, with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials to "develop clear plans to address anarchist violence both here in Portland and throughout the state."
He further called on state lawmakers to increase penalties for people who commit criminal destruction and vandalism and said he is seeking to allow police more authority to video demonstrators and "gather information" on "small groups of organized criminals."
The mayor also wants people who are found guilty of vandalizing businesses to be required to meet with their owners and employees and to be ordered to do community service to repair the damages they helped cause.
"These people need to hear and understand the social and human consequences of their irresponsible actions," Wheeler said.
Thursday night, approximately 100 people gathered in the same area of the city where demonstrations against police violence were held for weeks this past summer.
Police declared the event a riot, with Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell saying their officers were "under attack." Smoke and impact munitions were used to break up the crowd.
Items resembling Molotov cocktails were being thrown, several small fires were set, and some people in the crowd threw rocks, bricks, and frozen water bottles at the responding officers, police said.
They also launched fireworks toward the Federal Courthouse and the Multnomah County Justice Center, according to reports.
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