Portland's City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty accused the police, not rioter who had set fires around government buildings, of sending in "saboteurs" amid the riots. Backlash from the police caused her to retract her baseless claim hours later with an apology, according to The Oregonian.
"Portland police have consistently lied to the public. They've lied to our congressional delegation about whether or not they were coordinating activities with this federal secret police force," Hardesty said during a webinar hosted by Western States Center, which tracks "extremism" in the Pacific Northwest.
"Portland was never out of control. Portland's police overreacted, which gave 45 [President Donald Trump] permission to send in these troops," Hardesty claimed.
She also blamed Mayor Ted Wheeler for exacerbating violence, alluding to “ignorance at the highest levels in our city government” during the national briefing sponsored by the left-leaning Portland-based think tank.
"I absolutely believe that it is police action, and they are sending saboteurs and provocateurs into peaceful crowds so that they can justify their inhumane treatment of people who are standing up for their rights," Hardesty stated.
Hardesty said that she believes federal officers are targeting sanctuary cities.
“I asked the mayor, ‘Who do you think they’re grabbing off the street?’ Well, ah, ah,” she mimicked Wheeler stammering in response to her questioning.
“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?'" Hardesty played out.
She supposedly explained to Wheeler and city officials that it is not out of the realm of possibility for local police to collaborate with federal officers.
“People who just assume that if the police say it happened, it really happened," Hardesty snapped.
The president of the Portland Police Association, Daryl Turner, issued a livid statement, decrying Hardesty for pointing a finger at police and accusing them of acting as provocateurs.
Every single video confirms that rioters are lighting the fires and attempting to burn down buildings as the arsonists proudly claim responsibility, he explained.
"If Commissioner Hardesty has evidence of her outlandish accusation, she should immediately produce it," Turner fired back. "Of course, there is no such evidence. This is just one more example of Commissioner Hardesty putting her personal political agenda ahead of the best interests of the citizens of Portland."
Turner called Hardesty "part of the problem in Portland."
“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,” he said.
"Both actions are causing destruction and chaos at a time when our communities are pleading for leadership and meaningful change," Turner concluded.
Turner acknowledged that he has invited elected officials to stand on the front lines alongside officers but neither Hardesty nor any other City Council member has accepted his invitation.
On Wednesday evening, Hardesty apologized via a news release for her comments earlier, calling her actions one of the "bad days" we all have, just some aren't made publicly, according to KATU-TV.
"Today I let my emotions get the most of me during council and the comment I made to the press," Hardesty responded. "...I'm angry that even as a city commissioner, I am coming up against countless barriers from protecting protesting Portlanders from the deluge of tear gas, pepper spray, and other munitions on a nightly basis."
"Every night I am terrified that someone will be killed because of an officer's inability to d-escalate or walk away from a situation," she continued. "Or my worst fear, that those that seek to discredit protests are helping initiate it."
Hardesty admitted to using unfounded claims and spreading misinformation that no one in her position of power should be doing.
She went on to wiggle her pointed finger at the Portland Police Bureau to take note, asking for accuracy and transparency in their nightly statements regarding the protests, their conduct, and their involvement with federal officers, "because we can all agree lives are on the line."
"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 enhanced police actions," she continued in her accusations.
Her remarks are the latest in a public fracture with Wheeler, who has relied on Hardesty as his ally for re-election. The two teamed up last month to defund the city's police budget by $15 million, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
However, last week, Hardesty delivered an ultimatum, demanding that Wheller reined in the use of force by Portland officers or give her oversight of the bureau.
As she called to replace him as police commissioner, Wheeler refused and stated that he planned to continue in his position through this “time of transformation."
Now Hardesty is criticizing Wheeler in public forums while she repeats her power-hungry commands for control over the city's police force.