A group calling itself the “Wall of Mums” began gathering over the weekend in Portland, Oregon, to defend people protesting police brutality and racial inequality against the militarised federal agents deployed by President Donald Trump.
The group of several dozen was seen on the front line of the protests outside the US courthouse in Portland on Saturday with arms linked and chanting phrases like, “Leave our kids alone!” and “Feds stay clear, the mums are here.”
The group was brought together via a Facebook group “Wall of Moms” (sic) organised by Bev Barnum. It called on mothers to “do what we do best ― protect people.”
Barnum’s Facebook notes refer to nearly two months of protests in Portland that have followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“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.”
She added: “We moms (sic) are often underestimated. 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 (sic)?”
Barnum’s plea advised people who join her to wear “a face mask, helmet and closed toe shoes” and to be prepared to deal with the police presence.
The Facebook group exploded on Sunday and Monday with notes of praise from supporters.
Trump acknowledged he ordered federal agents to “quell” Portland demonstrations and crack down on “violent mayhem.” The Department of Homeland Security reportedly deployed officers in tactical gear from various federal law enforcement agencies. Witnesses say the cops are dressed in military-style clothing without identification and are using unmarked vehicles to take protesters away.
Saturday’s protest culminated with conflict between protesters and the federal forces. A small fire was set and the authorities attacked the crowd with tear gas.
One of the mums later shared her thoughts on Twitter. “I can’t believe I now live in a nation ... That doesn’t think twice about gassing its own citizens,” she wrote.
Portland police distanced themselves from the federal police action, and said in a statement on Sunday that the police department “did not engage with any crowds and did not deploy any CS gas.”
Trump tweeted about the unrest on Sunday, claiming he was “trying to help Portland, not hurt it.”
“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!” the president wrote.
Local and state leaders said the federal intervention has inflamed the protesters and made tensions worse.