On July 24, veterans formed a Wall of Vets and joined the protesters in Portland, Ore. This happened one week after federal officers assaulted a Navy veteran (Chris David) who claimed he just walked up to them to ask them a question.
The veterans congregated among thousands last night, along with the Wall of Moms, Wall of Dads, Teachers Against Tyrants, Healthcare Workers, and Lawyers for BLM who were in attendance protesting against racial injustice and inequality. One tweet stated that there were between 10,000 and15,000 people marching that Friday night.
Hearing from a friend in Portland that there are 10-15k marching tonight. The “Walls of Moms” (wearing yellow) & Dads (orange), joined by “Wall of Vets,” “Teachers Against Tyrants” (green), Healthcare Workers (in scrubs) & Lawyers for BLM (purple) pic.twitter.com/EfJGo0YyVG— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) July 25, 2020
What you need to know about the Wall of Vets.
The Wall of Vets formed when several vets, including Duston Obermeyer, wanted to ensure that federal officers weren't pushing back against people's constitutional right to free speech. Per The New York Times, Obermeyer stated, "Our veterans are here specifically to support the rights of the protesters to protest."
On Friday night, the large crowd of vets lined up in front of the fence around the federal courthouse and maintained their positions until they were tear-gassed.
People on Twitter have shared footage from the protests, commending the vets for joining the protest and calling their actions a true act of patriotism.
Another huge crowd tonight in Portland, including a new "wall" on the front lines: a Wall of Vets.— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) July 25, 2020
Here's a look at the line of military veterans getting set up here in front of the federal courthouse. Behind them, the Wall of Moms and the Wall of Dads are arriving. pic.twitter.com/gGnXHjI3k2
The #WallOfVets holding the frontline, using their bodies if need be, allowing protesters to practice their 1st Amendment right. Vets said during interviews “they took an oath to protect the Constitution.” So protect they shall do. #PortlandProtests pic.twitter.com/OfSqbxT5FG— Melissa (@melissadawes) July 25, 2020
A wall of vets protecting the wall of moms is the America we want. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/jcpDlFZcxs— Really American 🇺🇸 (@ReallyAmerican1) July 25, 2020
What's going on in Portland, exactly?
Over the last 50 days since George Floyd's death, people in Portland have been protesting, calling for real systemic change and accountability from the police. Trump recently responded by sending in federal officers to reportedly protect the facilities and local law enforcement officers.
Calling the protesters "anarchists and criminals," Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security stated, "We will continue to take the appropriate action to protect our facilities and our law enforcement officers. If we left tomorrow they would burn that building down."
But many people are horrified by the extremes that have been taken, which can be considered as a violation of our rights as U.S. citizens to protest and exercise our freedom of speech. Officials in Oregon have not welcomed the federal force. On July 19, the attorney general for the U.S. state of Oregon filed a lawsuit against the federal government for "unlawfully detaining protesters." Federal officers have also tear-gassed peaceful protesters, including mothers and healthcare workers.
"These tactics must stop. They not only make it impossible for people to assert their First Amendment rights to protest peacefully, they also create a more volatile situation on our streets," Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum stated.
However, on Friday, a judge denied the state's request to stop protester arrests. U.S District Court Judge Michael Mosman said, per a local NBC news outlet, "the state lacked standing to sue on behalf of protesters."
Although this isn't the first time federal enforcement has been called to aid in civil unrest (forces were sent to LA after the Rodney King riots broke out in Washington, Chicago, and Baltimore after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, and in Detroit during a race riot in 1943 and 1967 — and these are just a few examples), many feel that Trump's decision to send forces to Portland over protesting is excessive and disturbing.
"The idea of bringing in troops or law enforcement in its many forms to quell civilian protests is as American as apple pie — it is foundational to this nation. This is what is alarming about where we are now. There is a way in which [Trump] is taking this to the next level," Heather Ann Thompson, a historian at the University of Michigan tells the NYT.