Black Lives Matter protests may have left the media cycle, but they're still happening regularly in cities across the United States. And in Portland, Ore., unidentified federal police have been deployed by the president. They've been snatching protesters in the street and throwing them into unmarked cars and tear-gassing crowds.
In order to protect protesters from these federal agents, women formed a "Wall of Moms" between the police and the protesters. There were more than 30 moms who linked arms to create a barricade during these demonstrations. They chanted, "Feds stay clear! Moms are here!" and "Leave our kids alone" at the protest outside the federal courthouse, according to BuzzFeed News.
Protesters say that these federal officers have only served to escalate tensions in Portland. Not only are they grabbing people and shoving them into unmarked vans, but they're tear-gassing crowds, chasing and beating them with batons, and firing flash bangs.
The Mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, said on CNN that the presence of the federal police officers is "actually leading to more violence and more vandalism." He continued, "They're not wanted here. We haven't asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave."
NBC News reports that Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, alleging "that federal law enforcement officers sent to Portland to suppress protests violated the Constitution by unlawfully detaining and arresting demonstrators without probable cause."
Oregon Governor Kate Brown wrote of the federal police presence on Twitter, "This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government."
"We are about protecting peaceful citizens' right to protest," Bev Barnum, the organizer of "Wall of Moms," told BuzzFeed News. She created a Facebook event to organize the moms after she saw a viral video in which two armed federal officers exit an unmarked van and grab someone. They had no identifying features.
On the Facebook event, Barnum wrote, "Calling all moms. Let's do what we do best — protect people. As most of you have read and seen on the news, protesters are being hurt (without cause). And as of late, protesters are being stripped of their rights by being places in unmarked cars by unidentifiable law enforcement. We moms are often underestimated. But we're stronger than we're given credit for."
Barnum urged moms to wear white in order to stand out from the crowd and to wear a helmet in case things got violent. "We wanted to look like we were going to Target, like normal people," Barnum said.
Although she hoped that their "nonthreatening" appearance would stop federal officers from using violent measures against them and other protesters, the entire crowd was eventually tear-gassed. Still, Barnum said the moms will be out there "until no protester needs protecting."
Again, this is a chemical weapon of war being deployed against civilians who are exercising their right to protest an unwanted, militarized occupation of their city—not even by the entire federal government—but by specific orders of a president who aspires to be dictator. https://t.co/sgCwaeQPd9— Bree Newsome Bass (@BreeNewsome) July 20, 2020
While the Saturday night protest ended in violence, the moms returned on Sunday to continue to provide protection to protesters. Julia Peattie, one of the members of the Wall of Moms Facebook group, said, "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."
Barnum clarified that while the Wall of Moms was there to protect protesters, they didn't want to take any attention away from the Black voices who need to be heard. Brenna Burnett, who participated in the Wall of Moms, said, "This is about Black moms every day losing their children, husbands, brothers, friends. This is about Black Lives Matter. This is not about white women coming in to save the day."