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Portland mayor defends handling of violent protest

Police facing off with a protester Image copyright Getty Images

The mayor of Portland, Oregon, has defended the city's handling of a violent protest after being accused of coddling left-wing "thugs".

Mayor Ted Wheeler denied in a statement that he was restricting police from enforcing the law.

Clashes between anti-facist (Antifa) and right-wing extremists left eight people injured on Saturday.

The local police union has accused city hall of putting "handcuffs" on officers for political reasons.

And Senator Ted Cruz accused the mayor of allowing "thugs" to roam the streets.

What did the mayor say?

Mr Wheeler, a Democrat, and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw sent separate messages to the police force on Tuesday, assuring them of the city's support.

In a memo with the subject line "Thank You", the mayor praised police for working "to keep the peace during potentially volatile situations".

Mr Wheeler, who is the city's police commissioner, also took the opportunity to "address some misinformation" about the "perception that I have restricted your abilities to enforce the law".

He dismissed such "rumours and false narratives" and condemned "those who seek to divide and polarise for political ends".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Activists from both the far right and left faced off in Portland on Saturday

Ms Outlaw wrote: "If we make arrests, some say they were the wrong individuals or that we are favoring one side."

What happened on Saturday?

Street brawls erupted in Portland city centre, leading police to use pepper spray and declare a "civil disorder" alert.

Members of the Rose City Antifa group, wearing black bandanas and motorcycle helmets, confronted members of the Proud Boys, who describe themselves as "Western chauvinists", and #HimToo.

Footage from the scene showed individuals in the black uniforms often worn by Antifa attacking people.

They also hurled milkshakes, which Portland Police warned might have been mixed with quick-drying cement, though it was never established whether any concrete substance was actually used in the beverages.

Conservative journalist Andy Ngo, who works for online magazine Quillette, was beaten in an attack that sent him to hospital.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Conservative journalist Andy Ngo was attacked by far left demonstrators

"Officers told me they would not approach the suspect, who was still in sight, because that might 'incite' the crowd," he wrote in an article for the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

Police arrested three people. Eight were injured, including three police officers.

Conservatives said city hall had allowed leftist protesters to run amok.

Senator Cruz, a Texas Republican, called on the US Department of Justice to "investigate & bring legal action against a Mayor who has, for political reasons, ordered his police officers to let citizens be attacked by domestic terrorists".

What did the police union say?

Portland police union president Officer Daryl Turner accused city hall of failing to condemn Antifa.

He urged the mayor to "remove the handcuffs" that are restraining police from stopping violence "through strong and swift enforcement".

"Where are the voices condemning the lawlessness and violence?" Mr Turner asked.

"If this violence had been directed at Antifa, there would have been an immediate call for an independent, outside investigation.

"This is a perfect example of Portland politics at work and why our great City is now under fire in the national news."

He added: "Police officers work to uphold the Constitution, including the right to free speech. It's our job to ensure that our community can peacefully protest without fear of violence but right now our hands are tied."

Image copyright Getty Images

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