In the weeks following the killing of George Floyd, demonstrations against police brutality and racism continue nationwide.
In Portland, Oregon, tension continues to build between law officials and protestors now that federal agents from the US Marshals Special Operations Group and an elite U.S. Customs and Border Protection team based on the U.S.-Mexican border have been stationed in the city.
On Sunday, a group of protestors dubbed the “wall of moms” formed a barrier between protestors and law officials stationed outside a federal courthouse in Portland.
Moms Against Police Brutality have arrived at the (In)Justice Center in downtown Portland and are chanting “No justice no peace!” #PDXprotests #PortlandProtest #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/USv8NsrahZ— Jules Boykoff (@JulesBoykoff) July 20, 2020
Moms Against Police Brutality are back & in full force! Last night’s tear gas has only multiplied their numbers. They’re protesting against police violence in Portland & for #BlackLivesMatter #PDXprotests #PortlandProtest pic.twitter.com/aLfrszDnHp— Jules Boykoff (@JulesBoykoff) July 20, 2020
The dozens of moms locked arms and chanted, “Moms are here, feds stay clear” and “Leave our kids alone.”
Trump’s stormtroopers are no match for Portland’s moms ✊❤️pic.twitter.com/wRLcLHfLPR— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) July 21, 2020
That is, until, later that night when federal law enforcement elected to disperse the crowd with tear gas.
I’m just standing here in a gas mask thinking, “Are they gonna attack these moms?” as antifa teens scamper around me with pieces of fence.— Lindsey Smith (she/her) (@LindseyPSmith7) July 19, 2020
The moms are chanting, “Leave our kids alone!” pic.twitter.com/uAoYkzzorV
But the moms, and Portland, refuse to back down. Bev Barnum, 35, told BuzzFeed News she organized the protest in response to videos of the federal authorities’ actions.
“We are about protecting peaceful citizens’ right to protest,” Barnum said.
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
The military presence deployed by President Trump, meant to reinforce local law enforcement efforts and protect federal property, has come under scrutiny for using aggressive and illegal tactics against the people of Portland as they hold demonstrations well within their right to assemble.
Via his Twitter, Trump has painted the city’s protestors as anarchists and agitators.
“We are trying to help Portland, not hurt it,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Their leadership has, for months, lost control of the anarchists and agitators. They are missing in action. We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE. These were not merely protesters, these are the real deal!”
His point of view was reinforced by Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf who referred to the protestors as “lawless anarchists” during a visit to Portland last Thursday.
But both Mayor Ted Wheeler and Governor Kate Brown of Oregon have denounced the presence and behavior of the feds and are all but begging them to leave.
“[The federal officers are] not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave,” Mayor Wheeler said on CNN.
Governor Brown denounced Trump 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.”
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. https://t.co/PdlZkmW0mQ— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 16, 2020
Portland’s ‘moms’ vow to show up until the feds’ escalation of violence ends in their city.
“We’ll be out until no protester needs protecting,” Barnum told BuzzFeed News.
Barnum now manages a permanent Facebook group to organize future events. They’ll be out next Sunday, wearing yellow and passing out sunflowers.
It is fundamental that heroes like the moms act as guardians of our right to protest in order to continue this vital dialogue to dismantle a broken system. They ensure that the message of the Black Lives Matter movement remains clear: we demand justice and equality for black people.