During a Portland City Council meeting on March 1, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler slammed a far-left activist for speaking off-topic in regard to Portland Commissioner of Public Safety Rene Gonzalez’s ban on tents in the city.
A woman who identified herself as Keeley Higgins told Wheeler and the council, "Ted, I believe the last time I saw you in this kind of setting was when I gave testimony demanding that you end the use of poisonous gas on humans in this city. I recognize there must have been some sort of miscommunication about when we were talking about the tent ban. I'm gonna go for it."
"To give some context as to why I'm here to address Rene Gonzalez’s ban on the distribution of tents and sleeping bags via street response and the fire department. I operate within a framework of mutual aid. For folks who don't know what that is, mutual aid is a voluntary reciprocal exchange," she added, before her mic was cut.
"This is extremely disrespectful to the Police Accountability Commission that have this floor right now to discuss their item," Wheeler responded.
Wheeler told Higgins that she had to "get on topic or we’re gonna ask you to leave."
"Their impression is inaccurate," Wheeler said in response to something unheard. "I don't know where you got that information. We post the agenda. The agenda is very clear in terms of what we're discussing. It's a public document."
Higgins was heard asking when the time would be to ask about this topic, to which Wheeler said, It's not on it is not on today's agenda."
Higgins noted people "standing up," saying "we’re all here for it."
"Well, you're here at the wrong time. I'm sorry. This is the police accountability committee," said Wheeler, to which Higgins asked when the time would come for her to discuss her issue. "I cannot but I can tell you it's not right now," Wheeler responded.
"So the way that people give public testimony on any subject, on any subject, you would like to get public testimony: you can see the council clerk or you can go to the council clerk’s website, you can sign up to talk about any subject you want for three minutes at a city council meeting. I would encourage you to do that," said Wheeler.
"So not right now?" Higgins asked.
"Absolutely not right now," Wheeler responded. "It’s not on today’s agenda, that is correct. The item you are referring to is not on today’s agenda."
"Lift the ban, it’s killing people, it’s inhumane, and it’s evil and … can I get a f*ck Ted Wheeler in the chat," she said before walking off.
"F*ck Ted Wheeler," a person from the crowd yelled.
"You know when you do that it actually totally undercuts the thrust of your argument," Wheeler responded.
"I don’t really f*cking care what you think," Higgins responded.
"Well, and as a result of your behavior, nobody really cares what you think either did you consider that possibility?" Wheeler said.
As people from the crowd were heard yelling, Wheeler threatened to take the meeting to a virtual setting if there was "one more outburst."
"I don’t care if you like me or not, that’s not the point. The point is you’re disrespecting other people who have put a lot of time and energy into the Police Accountability Commission, and you’re being extremely disrespectful of their time and energy," Wheeler added.
"I don’t know why you think your opinion is more important than theirs at this particular juncture," he added, before they moved on to another speaker.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, Gonzalez in February ordered bureaus that oversee tent distribution to temporarily suspend handing out these tents in response to recent fires that broke out in tents across the city.
"It has become clear that tent and tarp-related fires are a grave public safety emergency for our city," Gonzalez said in the press release. "Unsanctioned fires put our first responders, houseless individuals, and our neighborhoods at risk."
The Register-Guard reported that in 2021, Higgins testified that she had attended what she called a "protest" in the city, and that police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. At the time, Portland was experiencing near-weekly riots in which properties were damaged.
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