“Our veterans are here specifically to support the rights of the protesters to protest,” Marine Corps veteran Duston Obermeyer told The New York Times.
Footage from The Oregonian showed most of the “Wall of Vets” members lined up ahead of the protests.
Most held their hands behind their backs, though two in the video can be seen holding signs, one reading “Black Lives Matter” and one reading “Disabled Veterans 4 BLM.” The veterans remained until tear gas dispersed most of the crowd of protesters, according to the Times.
The group’s name is an apparent nod to the “Wall of Moms,” a group of several dozen women who were seen in viral footage last week linking arms, surrounding protesters and chanting slogans such as, “Feds stay clear, the moms are here.” Other groups at the demonstrations in recent days have included a “Wall of Dads” and a “Wall of Grandparents.”
The protective human “walls” have gained traction as President Donald Trump deployed federal officers to Portland amid the ongoing protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Federal forces have been seen grabbing at least one person off the street and dragging him into an unmarked van, and federal officers fractured the skull of one man they hit in the head with a so-called “less lethal” weapon.
Trump has defended deploying federal agents, characterizing protesters as violent extremists and arguing that Portland has “lost control of the anarchists and agitators.” But state and local officials in Oregon have widely condemned the feds’ presence, and Gov. Kate Brown said they’re “adding gasoline to a fire.”
The Wall of Vets appeared about a week after Navy veteran Chris David was seen on video approaching federal officers in Portland only to be repeatedly hit with a baton and pepper-sprayed in the face.
Friday was the first night that many of the veterans participated in the Portland protests, Jonathan Fisher, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, told local news station KATU.
“We believe in something; it’s time to stand,” he said.