A group of mothers in Portland, Oregon formed a ‘wall of mums’ to shield Black Lives Matter protestors from unidentified federal agents deployed to the area by US President Donald Trump.
In videos shared across social media over the weekend, the group of several dozen women can be seen forming a human chain in front of protestors, chanting ‘Mums are here! Feds stay clear!’
Last night after getting gassed and shot at by the feds, I swore I wasn’t going back to protest again — but when I heard about a gathering called Wall of Moms, I couldn’t stay home. #fedsout #blacklivesmatter #wallofmoms pic.twitter.com/m30aGQAthZ— Julia Peattie (@repeattie) July 19, 2020
There’s a line of women linking arms and protecting the protestors outside the Justice Center. Chants of, “Feds stay clear, moms are here!” and “Moms not Feds,” to resounding applause. pic.twitter.com/uiU4yp50b5— Alexander Reid Ross (@areidross) July 19, 2020
For more than 50 days now, protests in Portland have continued every night, with reports of violence, arrests and the use of tear gas by federal agents. Local and state authorities have denounced the deployment of the unidentified federal agents, reportedly from Department of Homeland Security, by the Trump administration.
Lead organiser and local mother Bev Barnum said she was spurred to action after seeing footage of the unidentified federal agents acting violently towards protestors, arresting and forcing them into unmarked cars.
“I saw a video of federal agents taking a person from the sidewalk into a minivan,” Barnum told MSNBC. “I turned to my husband in bed and said ‘when is enough, enough? When am I allowed say, I’m going to stand up for these kids, these people’.”
“I posted on a Portland working mums group on Facebook and I said, ‘Hey! Have you ever protested before? Because I haven’t and I don’t know how, but I’d like to’.”
Barnum said she immediately garnered support from other mothers in Portland and made a Facebook event to organise their action.
“I’m here and I have an army of mums now, on my side, willing to be a human shield to make sure people aren’t gassed,” she said.
Moms “hands up, don’t shoot” pic.twitter.com/qvJKgJkz5m— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) July 21, 2020
Another woman who took part in the ‘wall of mums’, Rebecca, said the group of women hoped to protect and amplify the message of the protestors. She acknowledged black mothers have long taken part in protests, so the idea was nothing new.
“Parents have always been out there protesting. Black mothers have been doing this forever trying to get justice for their children,” she told CNN.
I am a 49 year old mother with a Masters in Education and I just got gassed by my own government. We were peaceful. I think I stood in the middle of the gas for longer than i should have… #wallofmoms #PortlandMoms #PortlandProtest #Teargas #BLM— Jen (@UnderAGraySky) July 20, 2020
The Mayor of Portland Ted Wheeler has said the tactics used by the Trump administration against protestors in the city are “abhorrent”.
“People are being literally scooped off the street into unmarked vans, rental cars, apparently. They are being denied probable cause. And they are denied due process. They don’t even know who’s pulling them into the vans. The people aren’t identifying themselves. And, as far as I can see, this is completely unconstitutional,” Wheeler said on CNN’s State of the Union program.
On the Facebook event for Portland mothers, Barnum wrote that mums are often underestimated.
“But we’re stronger than we’re given credit for.”