“Wall Of Moms” Expands Across U.S. & Joins Black-Led Groups To Sue Trump Admin.
Self-organized “Wall Of Moms” chapters have popped up in at least 22 cities and states, inspired by mothers supporting Black Lives Matter in Portland.
The “Wall Of Moms” seen stepping up to defend Black and Brown protesters in Portland are now popping up around the country, with at least 22 new chapters organizing in different cities and states. In addition to their presence on the streets, they’re also taking the fight to court: the Portland Wall of Moms (WOM) joined the Black-led Don’t Shoot Portland and other plaintiffs to sue the Trump administration on Monday to try and stop federal agents from using excessive force against protesters.
According to the lawsuit, plaintiff Bev Barnum, a resident of Portland, Oregon organized the Wall of Moms (WOM) in mid-July to join ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in the city. They joined protesters on the July 18-19 weekend when federal agents cracked down harshly on demonstrators, using tear gas and other aggressive methods to suppress the protests.
Videos of the mostly white moms linking arms and staring down federal agents quickly went viral on social media, prompting an outpouring of support—and inspiring moms (and dads) around the country to form their own chapters.
The Wall Of Moms acknowledge their white privilege and want to follow the lead of Black activists
According to Newsweek, “WOM Twitter and Facebook accounts have popped up for at least 22 other cities and states, suggesting the power of the Portland-based movement’s ability to inspire grassroots organizing.”
The moms in Portland, one of the whitest cities in America, are are encouraging people to form their own groups on Twitter, specifically asking people to reach out to local Black Lives Matter groups:
Hey team, if you're asking us about other chapters, go to Facebook and search there. We are decentralized and will link out to groups on the site soon, but until then, we don't have the mompower to get you organized.— WOM OFFICIAL (@WallOfMoms) July 22, 2020
Other cities where chapters have formed include Seattle, Kansas City, Denver, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee, as well as regions of New Jersey. On the WOM website, the organizers outline how these groups should work: “We listen to Black leaders. We are here to follow their direction, behind the scenes and at the justice center [in Portland]. We go where they tell us.”
“Our goal is to push the media to turn the focus where it belongs: Black leaders,” continues the description on the website. “We will use our white bodies, not our white voices.”
Referring to founding organizer Barnum, the site says “Bev’s vision was that we moms would take some physical hits in hopes our Black and Brown kids, friends, neighbors and loved ones will be spared some pain. To summon that mom warrior spirit to protect our kids — ALL our kids. To let the Feds/cops hit, gas, shoot us first. Not to be the voice of the movement.”
The moms also acknowledge their privilege, writing: “A lot of us haven’t put our bodies in harms [sic] way like this. It’s really scary and awful. But it’s what’s been happening to Black and Brown bodies for years.”
Federal agents haven’t held back with violence against the Wall of Moms. Tim Dickinson, a senior writer for Rolling Stone based in Portland, wrote about a mom who was shot in the face at the protests Saturday:
Thread:— Tim Dickinson (@7im) July 27, 2020
One of the things about been the parent of school aged kids in Portland is that I know a bunch of the women who have locked arms at the Wall of Moms.
One of them, a woman I attend a yearly barbeque with, got shot in the face on the night of July 25th pic.twitter.com/1jYoeCGYux
The woman described herself in a Facebook post about the shooting “as a 41 year old white woman with immense privilege.”
Another mom, Gia Gilk, organized her own WOM chapter in Albuquerque, New Mexico — which is also one of the cities where Trump has said he’s sending federal agents. Gilk told Newsweek that “the whole point of the Wall of Moms is to be of service to the Black Lives Matter group, and so we don’t plan [our own events].”
Don’t Shoot Portland and Wall Of Moms sue federal government, alleging unlawful use of force
On Monday, the nonprofit group Protect Democracy filed a lawsuit against several federal agencies and Trump administration officials on behalf of Don’t Shoot Portland, a Black-led nonprofit community organization founded in 2014, as well as MOM and several individual protesters and organizers.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that they “have been tear-gassed night after night, left vomiting and unable to eat or sleep because of the toxic poison blasted at them.”
“They have been shot at over and over — with rubber bullets, bean bags, pepper spray, and a range of other projectiles fired at close range and with brutal effect,” the complaint reads. “They have had flash-bang explosive devices detonated right in front of them. They have been forced to speak and assemble in fear of not just bodily harm, but the possibility of sudden arrest without probable cause.”
The last allegation refers to federal officers deployed by Trump “kidnapping” protesters, detaining them without cause and putting them in unmarked vans, as seen on video earlier this month.
The lawsuit names several Trump officials as specific defendants: Attorney General Bill Barr, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf (who recently visited Portland and posted several photos of graffiti he saw on the streets as apparent justification for the use of force), Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan, ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence, Federal Protective Service Director L. Eric Patterson, and U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington, as well as the agencies from which the officers have been deployed: Dept. of Homeland Security, CBP, ICE, FPS, the Marshals Service, and the Dept. of Justice.
Attorney General Bill Barr defends Portland actions in testimony to Congress
The day after the lawsuit was filed, AG Bill Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee and defended the aggressive tactics used by federal agents in Portland, telling Congress that the Portland protests “are an assault on the government of the United States.”
Despite the federal government’s unwillingness to back down from the use of force thus far, protests in Portland have continued nightly—and the Wall of Moms have inspired other groups to come out as well, including a Wall of Dads and a Wall of Vets.
Another huge crowd tonight in Portland, including a new "wall" on the front lines: a Wall of Vets.— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) July 25, 2020
Here's a look at the line of military veterans getting set up here in front of the federal courthouse. Behind them, the Wall of Moms and the Wall of Dads are arriving. pic.twitter.com/gGnXHjI3k2
The Wall of Dads showed up one night with leaf blowers to blow back tear gas used by federal agents, inspiring one granddad to drive down as well. Peter Buck traveled to Portland from Olympia, Washington, and told freelance journalist Sergio Olmos that he came down because he’s “aghast … at such a violation of the Constitution.” Buck then showed off and described his “supercharged leaf blower” that he bought that day, which goes “110 miles an hour, it’s got a superfan…I think it’ll work really well,” he said.
“Why’d you bring it?” asked Olmos in a video posted to Twitter.
“Oh, to blow the tear gas away,” Buck responded. “I heard [about] the dads with blowers...well, I’m a granddad with a blower.”
When George Floyd called out for his mother
At the top of the Wall of Moms website, there’s a graphic from artist Xochilt Ruvalcaba, which reads, “All mothers were summoned when he called out to his mama,” referring to George Floyd’s dying words in Minneapolis.
When Floyd was held down by Minneapolis police officers for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and couldn’t breathe, he pleaded with the officers to get off his neck. At one point, he called out for his mother.
“Mama! Mama! My knee. My neck. I’m through,” the 46-year-old Floyd said. His mother died two years ago.
Floyd was buried next to his mother following a private ceremony in his hometown of Houston on June 9.