Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY
Published 8:10 a.m. ET July 20, 2020 | Updated 9:53 a.m. ET July 20, 2020
A group of women formed a human wall around protesters in Portland, Oregon, chanting: “Moms are here. Feds stay clear.”
A group of protesters in Portland formed a “wall of moms” during demonstrations over the weekend as the Oregon city saw continued tensions rise amid weeks of unrest and the presence of federal authorities.
The group of women formed what could be called a human shield dubbed the “wall of moms” at the front of a protest outside a federal courthouse on Sunday, and videos on social media showed the group chanting, “Moms are here, feds stay clear” and “Leave our kids alone.”
Portland has seen nightly unrest since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The death of Floyd, a Black man killed when a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, sparked massive protest around the country and a movement pushing for racial justice and changes to policing.
In Portland, 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 aid law enforcement and protect federal property.
However, videos shared on social media showed federal agents using unmarked vehicles to detain people without explanation and drive off. The actions sparked a lawsuit from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum who said the agents violated the civil rights of Oregon residents by using unlawful tactics.
Bev Barnum, 35, told BuzzFeed News she organized the protest dubbed the “wall of moms” after seeing the videos of the federal authorities’ actions.
“We are about protecting peaceful citizens’ right to protest,” Barnum told BuzzFeed News. “We wanted to look like we were going to Target, like normal people,” she added.
The group also gathered Saturday night, with video showing dozens of women standing in front of the crowd.
Videos from the “mom” protest on Sunday showed the group peacefully chanting and locking arms. Later in the night, photos and video showed that officers used tear gas to disperse the crowds.
Portland’s mayor Ted Wheeler has criticized the presence of the federal officers in the city, saying on CNN they are, “not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave.”
President Donald Trump, however, has defended the use of the agents and decried the protests.
“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!”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf blasted the protesters as “lawless anarchists” in a visit to the city on Thursday.
Gov. Kate Brown has demanded that all federal law enforcement officers be removed from Portland streets and accused Wolf of putting both Oregon’s citizens and law enforcement officers in danger.
“This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety, Brown said in a tweet. “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.”
Contributing: Khrysgiana Pineda, Joel Shannon, N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Kristine Phillips, Lindsay Schnell and The Associated Press
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