A group of women in Portland formed a “wall of moms” to protect protestors during a demonstration outside a federal courthouse over the weekend, with organizers saying they wanted to protect the First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble.
The women stood side by side, forming a human shield between protestors and law enforcement. The women were captured on social media chanting “Moms are here, feds stay clear” and “Leave our kids alone.”
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Portland has had regular protests since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May. Floyd, who was Black, was killed when a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder.
As protests in Portland continued, militarized federal officers were deployed to aid local law enforcement. Things took a dramatic turn last week when social media showed the officers using unmarked vehicles to detain protestors with little or no explanation.
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The events inspired Bev Barnum, 35, to organize the protest of moms. Creating a Facebook event page, the mother-of-two called for other moms to join Saturday’s protest. “Protestors are being stripped of their rights by being placed in unmarked cars by unidentifiable law enforcement,” she wrote.
Many of the protestors wore white tops and capri pants or jeans. They also wore masks and bike helmets.
“We wanted to look like we were going to Target, like normal people,” Barnum told BuzzFeed News. She added that she hoped that they would appear nonthreatening in an attempt to shield the other protestors.
The moms were later teargassed, Barnum said. But she said the officers “showed restraint” compared to how she said authorities treated other protesters.
The mothers may continue to show up at the demonstrations, Barnum says, adding, “We are about protecting peaceful citizens’ right to protest.”
Another participant, Brenda Burnett, 29, told BuzzFeed the moms didn’t want to shift the focus away from the issues at hand.
“This is about Black moms every day losing their children, husbands, brothers, friends,” she said. “This is about Black Lives Matter. This is not about white women coming in to save the day.”