Hundreds of Portland moms have come together over the past week to join nightly demonstrations in downtown.

They stand arm-in-arm at protests, placing themselves between federal officers and younger protesters in an act of protection. As the number of moms turning out in Portland grew with each protest, mom protest groups began to spring up across the nation in places like New York City, St. Louis and Philadelphia.

Bev Barnum, the woman who founded the Portland group, wrote about the experience Sunday after the Wall of Moms first went out. In less than eight hours, she said, several moms helped her put the group together. Nearly 14,000 people have joined the Wall of Moms private Facebook group.

“We tried in earnest to give the kids a break by shifting the pervasive narrative that protesters are rioters,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Case and point, we wore our whitest whites to show that we weren’t there to make trouble, we showed up to prove that feds are the violent ones at protests.”

Some moms, making their first appearance at the Black Lives Matter protests, have been gassed by officers and shot at with canisters. One mother, a lawyer from Beaverton, said she was arrested for hitting an officer when she didn’t. She never read her rights, even though officials tried to interview her.

Another mom, Megan Sage, said she felt more comfortable going out to the sometimes dangerous protests because of the information shared on the Wall of Moms Facebook group about how to prepare and what to expect. Every mom gets buddied up with another if they don’t come with someone, she said.

Sage and her family have attended daytime protests, but now having gone to the night one, she said she plans to go back and that her wife and son may come with her as well.

Group member Candice Jimenez had been to Black Lives Matter protests in Portland before. A member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Jimenez had attended a handful of protests to perform land acknowledgments, formal statements often made before public events that acknowledge the history of Indigenous peoples living on and tending the land.

Last weekend was her first protest with anyone from the Wall of Moms. Jimenez didn’t entirely know what to expect since she didn’t know the group’s organizers or their intentions, but the number of white women in the group stuck out to her.

“That felt good to me,” Jimenez said. “I don’t know every single woman’s intention or why they’re there, but it made me feel as if it’s creating community connection that we maybe haven’t seen in a while. We haven’t seen that type of solidarity for people outside of your own unique circles.”

Fathers have also come to some of the nightly protests after a call out from the parent protest group PDX Dad Pod. Some even brought leaf blowers to help blow away tear gas used on the protesters.

Sage said she went to be an ally but doesn’t want to distract from Black protesters’ experiences of racism.

“It’s not about me being a white suburban mom showing up for this other than to support the movement that is really from those people who have been really affected by this and are affected by it every day,” Sage said.

She said the protests were a supportive environment, with people offering free water and food throughout the night. She left around 11:30 p.m. and did not face tear gas.

Caren Geiger attended on Monday and said she was tear-gassed and that a federal officer shot something at her foot.

Geiger had attended an earlier time in late May. Then a friend shared the Wall of Moms Facebook group and they felt called to go.

“This is not our generation’s big moment,” Geiger said. “This is the kid’s big moment, the 20-year-olds’ big moment. When they ask for our help, it’s our job to come and be supportive and to help them do what they need to do.”

She said the night was peaceful, with speakers, chants and songs until just after midnight when federal officers released tear gas on protesters.

She said some of the younger protesters and organizers who have been out consistently ushered the moms out of harm’s way and told them it was time to go home.

She said some of them were chanting, “Walk, don’t run. Mama’s time is done.”

As Geiger and her friends were leaving, she said that an officer came up to her and shot something that hit and bruised her foot. Still, she plans to go out again soon, but also says she has to be careful because her parents are at risk for coronavirus.

On Tuesday night, more than 200 women, joining demonstrators, came out dressed in yellow.

Shawn Roberts, who is Black, said Tuesday was her fourth night at the protests. She said she protests because she wants her children to be able to walk down the street without being afraid. She is glad to see white moms care about Black lives and the movement.

“I think it’s amazing standing next to our sisters because they’re fighting the fight with us,” Roberts said. “I think we have fought the fight too long and so it’s fine that they’re out here. They’re our allies.”

Katie Augsburger said she’s been watching what’s been going on, feeling sad and hurt.

“I felt like I couldn’t just watch it anymore,” Augsburger, who is Black, said. “Like, I had to be here and supporting my city, and our protesters and everybody who is coming out for folks like me. So, I’m here now.”

Danialle James, a Black mother, said she was glad to see more people at recent protests, including the Wall of Moms. She said she started protesting George Floyd’s death even before the 55 days of organized protests in downtown Portland.

She has noticed the influx of people since the federal officers have arrived and hopes people will remember what the protests are really about.

James said she feels she has seen many people she didn’t expect to at the protest, but that she is glad to see it.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” James said about the Wall of Moms. “It feels great to know that there’s other folks that want to come and be of support and in solidarity with the folks there. I wish everyone would have come out at the beginning. Better late than never, though.”


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