Dozens of mothers linked arms in Portland, Oregon on Sunday in order to create a “Wall of Moms” around Black Lives Matter protesters, about 400 people, who have been under attack from federal law enforcement for weeks.
Chanting “Feds stay clear, moms are here!” “Feds go home!” and “Leave our kids alone!” the group demonstrated clear support for protestors. The Wall of Moms began with a rally by a group called Moms Against Police Brutality, with some of the women involved saying that their children had been tear-gassed by law enforcement in earlier protests. Bev Barnum, an organizer of the Wall of Moms, said in an interview with BuzzFeed News that they “are about protecting peaceful citizens’ right to protest.” The group protested peacefully, locking arms and chanting. Later, photos and videos show officers using tear gas to disperse the moms and the other protesters present.
On Sunday, protesters “toppled a fence erected around the federal courthouse,” according to NBC News. Federal agents responded to these actions with tear gas and flash bangs. Once the fence was down, protesters cheered and approached the doors of the courthouse with protective gear on, such as hockey sticks, gas masks, helmets, and umbrellas.
Portland police were not present at the protest and did not deploy gas or engage with the crowds. The law enforcement present were federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security. Mayor Ted Wheeler, the city’s mayor, blamed them for “escalating the situation.” On CNN, he said “their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism… They’re not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave.” Federal agents from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and an “elite U.S. Customs and Border Protection team based on the U.S.-Mexico border” have been deployed to try to crush protests and protect federal property.
On Friday, 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 violated the Constitution by unlawfully detaining and arresting demonstrators without probable cause. Videos shared on social media document federal agents using unmarked vehicles, detaining people without explanation, and driving off. Rosenblum has asked for a restraining order in order to prevent officers from the Federal Protection Service, Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Marshals Service from making further arrests.
After the murder of George Floyd, Portland has seen sustained protests, with tensions recently escalating after one protester was critically injured by an officer with the U.S. Marshals Service.
President Trump claimed in a tweet that the government is “trying to help Portland, not hurt it,” blaming local leadership for having “lost control of the anarchists and agitators.”
Sources: NBC News 07/20/20; USA Today 07/07/20; BuzzFeed News 07/07/20; The Hill 07/07/20