As federal agents continue to occupy Portland, Oregon, amid ongoing anti-police brutality demonstrations, an unlikely group swooped in to protect protestors. More than 30 moms linked arms on Saturday to create a human barrier between protesters and law enforcement as part of the now-dubbed Wall Of Moms.
Now-viral videos taken outside the city’s federal courthouse show the moms, dressed in white and decked out in protective bike helmets, chanting “Feds stay clear! Moms are here!” and “Leave our kids alone.” According to Buzzfeed News, the moms remained at the scene for hours until officers eventually deployed tear gas and used flash bangs to disperse the nearly 400 person crowd.
The action takes place days after the first reports emerged from Portland alleging that federal law enforcement agents were using unmarked vans to “abduct” and detain protesters in the city, seemingly without cause. Bev Barnum, the 35-year-old organizer of the “Wall Of Moms” Facebook page, wrote in a description for the event that it had been directly inspired by those chilling displays of federal force.
"As most of you have read and seen on the news, protestors are being hurt (without cause)," Barnum wrote. "And as of late, protestors are being stripped of their rights by being placed in unmarked cars by unidentifiable law enforcement."
Barnum went on to explain how the moms of Portland could help these protestors detailing why everyone should wear white (to stand out) and helmets (to protect from possible violent officer attacks). "We moms are often underestimated," Barnum continued. "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?"
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Barnum added that the protesters chose to identify themselves as moms in a deliberate attempt to underscore their non-threatening nature. “We wanted to look like we were going to Target, like normal people,” she said.
Despite pushback from Oregon elected officials — including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) — who claimed that the deployment of federal officials would escalate tensions in the city, the Trump administration, led by acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, opted to send in officers with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Protection Service anyway.
In an Oregon Department of Justice release on Friday, Rosenblum announced lawsuits against several of those agencies for “overstepping their powers and injuring or threatening peaceful protesters on the streets of Downtown Portland.” Despite the backlash, Trump has not indicated any intention to back down or retreat federal officers from Portland.
The videos of that alleged overreach are what inspired 63-year-old Julia Peattie, who had never attended a protest before, to link arms with the Wall of Moms on Saturday. Peattie was in good company, though, as the moms of Portland seemingly banded together — prepared for any and all outcomes — in an attempt to protect fellow protestors who were being brutalized and filmed for days on end.
“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,’ Peattie told Buzzfeed News. “This is that time.”