‘Wall of Moms’ group aims to protect protesters in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — In a response to federal tactics used against peaceful protesters in Portland, a group of mothers has formed a group focused on protecting demonstrators.

Wearing bicycle helmets and yellow shirts, at least 30 mothers in Portland, Oregon, created a human barricade Saturday evening to protect the hundreds of peaceful protesters from federal officers who have recently deployed to the city, according to Buzzfeed News.

“Wall of Moms” organizer Bev Barnum posted a Facebook event asking mothers to join the first protest Saturday evening.

“Calling all moms. Let’s do what we do best- protect people,” Barnum wrote on the Facebook page. “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. But we’re stronger than we’re given credit for. So what do you say, will you stand with me? Will you help me create a wall of moms?”

According to Buzzfeed News, many mothers in the area who had never protested were inspired to join the effort.

“When I heard that, this is like, where are we? There’s all the times in one’s life when you hear about things in authoritarian regimes and Nazi Germany, and you say, ‘I wouldn’t put up with that.’ This is that time,” 63-year-old retired teacher Julia Peattie told BuzzFeed News.

On the evening of the group’s first protest, militarized federal agents deployed by President Donald Trump fired tear gas against demonstrators near the federal courthouse later Saturday night, the Oregonian/Oregon Live reported. Fencing that had been placed around the courthouse had also been removed by protesters and made into barricades, police tweeted.

Protests against systemic racism and police brutality have been a nightly feature in deeply liberal Portland since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd on May 25. Trump has decried the disorder, and Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf blasted the protesters as “lawless anarchists” in a visit to the city, helping make the clashes between police and demonstrators a national focus.

The administration has enlisted federal agents, including the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and an elite U.S. Customs and Border Protection team based on the U.S.-Mexico border, to protect federal property. But Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that some agents had been driving around in unmarked vans and snatching protesters from streets not near federal property, without identifying themselves.

Tensions also escalated after an officer with the Marshals Service fired a less-lethal round at a protester’s head on July 11, critically injuring him.

The agents’ actions have prompted outrage from elected officials and civil liberties groups, with Mayor Ted Wheeler demanding at a news conference last week, “Keep your troops in your own buildings, or have them leave our city.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.