In the wake of ongoing protests against police brutality and racism, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Service deployed federal law enforcement officers to Portland, Oregon, and over the past several weeks, the federal officers have used tear gas to disperse crowds and detained demonstrators without explanation.
To protect the protestors, a group of moms organized and formed a “human wall” around them on July 18. The mothers say they were there to defend demonstrators’ right to peacefully protest.
In a Facebook event dubbed “Wall of Moms,” the women outlined their goals.
“Calling all moms,” the event description read in part. “Let’s do what we do best — protect people. As most of you have read and seen on the news, protestors are being hurt (without cause). And as of late, protestors are being stripped of their rights by being placed in unmarked cars by unidentifiable law enforcement.”
“We moms are often underestimated,” the post continued. “But we’re stronger than we’re given credit for.”
Bev Barnum, the 35-year-old mother of two who created Wall of Moms, told BuzzFeed News the group hoped that by appearing non-threatening, they could protect some people.
“We wanted to look like we were going to Target, like normal people,” she said.
On July 18, more than 30 moms gathered near a federal courthouse in downtown Portland. Joshua Potash tweeted out this video of the moms wearing helmets and chanting:
Incredible scene in Portland right now. A group of Moms are chanting, “Feds stay clear! Moms are here!” at the federal courthouse.
— Read Class Struggle Unionism by Joe Burns (@JoshuaPotash) July 19, 2020
“Incredible scene in portland right now,” he wrote. “A group of moms are chanting, ‘Feds stay clear! Moms are here!’ at the federal courthouse.”
The women remained for several hours until federal officers began to disperse the crowd with flash-bangs, batons and tear gas.
Julia Peattie, a 63-year-old retired teacher and mother who participated in the event, tweeted out these photos:
— Julia Peattie (@repeattie) July 19, 2020
Twitter user @lindseypsmith7 snapped a photo of the moms, too, showing them locked arm-in-arm:
This group, who says they’re moms against police brutality, is making a human barricade at 3rd & Main. pic.twitter.com/k5gJ8Tyt3c
— "Lindsey" (she/her) (@LindseyPSmith7) July 19, 2020
Barnum told BuzzFeed News that some of the moms were tear-gassed by federal agents later that evening.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says the federal agents, who were deployed at the behest of President Donald Trump, have only served to escalate tensions in his city.
“Our local state law enforcement official had contained the situation,” Wheeler told NBC News. “The energy was coming out of the demonstrations. We had hoped they would end within a matter of days. And what happened instead is, the federal troops came in. They used unconstitutional tactics. They injured nonviolent demonstrators, and the whole thing blew up again like a powder keg.”
As for the women who stood in the Wall of Moms, look for them to be back out at protests soon.
“We’ll be out until no protestor needs protecting,” Barnum told BuzzFeed News.