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In the midst of ongoing protests against systemic racism and police brutality in Portland, Oregon, local moms banded together to help protect protestors who have been targeted by federal agents. The mothers are part of a group called Wall of Moms, and their mission is to defend demonstrators’ right to peacefully protest. Now, dads have joined the cause, and they’re bringing leaf blowers with them.
On July 21, the Twitter account @PDXDadPod sent a tweet inviting dads to gather at the protest at 8:45 p.m. that night:
Come stand up for your town, your neighbors, your kids. Look for the other orange shirts, use the buddy system. And remember, safety first. pic.twitter.com/FJY8JM4ccI
— @PDXDadPod (@pdxdadpod) July 22, 2020
“Come stand up for your town, your neighbors, your kids,” read the tweet. “Look for the other orange shirts, use the buddy system. And remember, safety first.”
Using leaf blowers to disperse tear gas is a tactic Americans have borrowed from Hong Kong‘s pro-democracy protestors, who have a coordinated system for neutralizing a tear-gas canister that involves blowing the gas away, covering it and dousing it in water. This viral tweet from @demosisto shows how it works:
— Demosistō 香港眾志 😷 (@demosisto) October 27, 2019
In Portland, the use of leaf blowers has apparently caught some federal agents off guard. According to a tweet from Washington Post reporter Nick Miroff, a Department of Homeland Security official was shocked that people were using leaf blowers to disperse tear gas, sending it away from protestors and back toward the agents:
One DHS official we spoke to expressed frustration and astonishment that Portland protesters were showing up with leaf blowers to disperse tear gas and send it right back at fed agents
— Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) July 20, 2020
Another Washington Post reporter on the ground in Portland, Marissa J. Lang, tweeted that it’s been “fascinating to see #Portland protestors get increasingly creative & extreme about gear,” with the photos showing people using homemade shields and gas masks to fend off tear gas as well as employing other innovative measures to stay safe. She noted, “A few moms out here brought their gas masks”:
It’s been fascinating to see #Portland protesters get increasingly creative & extreme about gear. They’ve ordered gas masks. Some fashioned shields. This dad in orange is wearing his woodworking outfit. An ex roller derby player inked phone numbers on her arm under wrist guards. pic.twitter.com/xzK5GR7DBD
— Marissa J. Lang (@Marissa_Jae) July 24, 2020
Lang was interviewing a protestor when the tear-gassing began on July 22. In her second video, one of the dads clears the air with a leaf blower.
The plumes of tear gas began to waft over this crowd of #PortlandMoms who have been facing off with a line of cops, chanting. Enter: a dad with a leafblower. #PortlandProtest pic.twitter.com/CiZ3AKSogj
— Marissa J. Lang (@Marissa_Jae) July 22, 2020
President Donald Trump deployed federal agents to Portland to protect a federal courthouse that has been tagged with graffiti and had windows broken amid weeks of protest against racism and police brutality. The state’s senators and governor, and Portland’s mayor, want them to leave, according to Vox. Since the federal agents’ arrival, protestors have reported getting picked up by unidentified officers in unmarked vehicles, blocks from the courthouse.
The Oregonian reported that 2,000 people were at the July 23 protest, and that the Wall of Moms has been out to protest every night since July 19.