Portland Mayor tear-gassed in another night of unrest in US city

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PORTLAND The mayor of the US city of Portland, Mr Ted Wheeler, was stung by tear gas early yesterday morning after he joined demonstrators protesting against racial injustice and police brutality.

Security forces have frequently tear-gassed and clubbed demonstrators during weeks of unrest and Mr Wheeler, visiting the protest site outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, urged federal agents to be withdrawn from the city.

"They are not wanted here," he said.

But Mr Wheeler, who is also the city's police commissioner, was jeered at by demonstrators who called on him to resign and chanted "Shame on you".

Some said he should have done more to protect Portland's citizens.

The deployment of federal agents in Portland on July 4 is a flashpoint in a national debate over civil liberties that has roiled the US since the death of Mr George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Demonstrators and local officials see the move as a political ploy by US President Donald Trump to drum up a "law and order" campaign as he faces an uphill re-election battle.

After a few demonstrators had set trash bags on fire outside the courthouse, federal agents inside the Justice Centre fired tear gas, flash bangs and pepper balls into the area.

Mr Wheeler stood at the front of the line, in a surgical mask and goggles, and began to cough, a Reuters reporter said. He experienced two rounds of heavy tear gas. His eyes and nose were running, his face was red and his eyes were bloodshot.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump unveiled an expansion of the Operation Legend programme to more cities in a further effort by federal officials to tackle violence.

"Today I am announcing a surge of federal law enforcement into American communities plagued by violent crime," said Mr Trump, who has accused Democratic mayors and governors of tolerating crime waves.

"This bloodshed must end; this bloodshed will end," he said.

The programme involves deploying federal law enforcement agents to assist local police in combating what the Justice Department has described as a "surge" of violent crime. - REUTERS