August Winningham is familiar with tear gas. While protesting racial injustice and police brutality, the Farm Spirit cook has — like countless other Portlanders — inhaled his fair share of CS gas, a “riot control agent” that severely burns the eyes and causes retching and coughing. In July, Winningham watched as Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, choked for the cameras when federal agents sprayed the crowd with tear gas, an agent Portland police had used for months.
“I was feeling sad and angry about his hypocrisy, him protesting the federal occupation and the brutality when Portland police has done the exact same thing,” Winningham says. “We’re all getting more disillusioned by these empty gestures.” He used that frustration to fuel a side project: Tear Gas Ted’s hot sauce.
Winningham’s hot sauce uses peppers like serranos, jalapenos, and tomatillos from farms like Junction City’s Groundworks Organics, which he lacto-ferments and bottles. The bottles come adorned with an image of Wheeler in goggles and a mask, designed by local artists Nicole Marsh and Jeffery Frankenhauser. The flavors change sporadically — he’s currently tweaking a version made with carrot, habanero, and smoked pineapple.
Tear Gas Ted’s has become another way for Winningham to show his support for the larger movement. Each bottle is available for free, as long as interested parties prove they’ve donated at least $10 to Don’t Shoot Portland, a social justice nonprofit known for its policy work, community aid, and advocacy for marginalized groups across the state. “[Founder] Teressa Raiford has been putting in the real boots-on-the-ground work for so long, and she’s going to be on the ground for a long time,” Winningham says. “They do real, concrete, consequential action.”
Customers can currently find the hot sauce at Fermenter, though Winningham is trying to figure out a way to ship bottles, as well. He’s adamant, however, that Tear Gas Ted’s is not meant to be a big, profitable brand. “The intention was never to build a business or make money, it was a really small way to raise awareness,” he says. “I’ve been paying for everything — bottles, labels, product — and then people donate and show me proof. That’s my donation.”
• Tear Gas Ted’s Hot Sauce [Instagram]
• Don’t Shoot Portland [Official]
• Ted Wheeler Has a Hot Sauce Named After Him. It’s Not Meant as a Compliment. [WWeek]
• Portland mayor tear-gassed by federal agents at protest [CBS]
• For Portland Police, Indiscriminate Use of Tear Gas During Protests Is Unavoidable [Merc]
• When Portland police use tear gas, protesters aren’t the only ones breathing it [OPB]