Wall of Moms protesters linking arms and dressed in yellow

Garrison Davis

This ‘Wall of Moms’ is serious about protecting protesters

Federal agents used tear gas on the moms, but they keep returning.

Jul 20, 2020, 3:34 pm

Internet Culture

Siobhan Ball 

Siobhan Ball

A group of protesters calling themselves the Wall of Moms placed themselves between the federal agents and the rest of the protesters in Portland, Oregon this past weekend.

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Organized by 35-year-old Bev Barnum, Wall of Moms draws on the traditional strategies of weaponized respectability and placing those the state is most reluctant to hurt between it and those most at risk. Similar to the calls for "white allies to the front" seen at other Black Lives Matter marches, the Moms were hoping to make use of the cultural veneration of—especially white—motherhood, and the instinctive reluctance to harm women who are perceived as embodying it. Barnum, who is Mexican American, told BuzzFeed News that she wanted to use the privilege of being "white appearing" to protect other protesters who were more likely to be targeted by law enforcement, and for other women to join her by doing the same.

‘Moms against police brutality’ chanting for Feds to go home got flash banged by the Feds. Ladies with no weapons, not graffitiing, not destroying, just exercising their first amendment rights. Make this go national pls #PortlandProtests #PDXprotests #PortlandKidnappings
@TrumpIsAPandemic
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Though the group and the rest of the crowd were eventually subjected to tear gas, flashbangs, and other less lethal measures to force them to disperse, Barnum believes the agents showed restraint compared to previous nights, and that this is at least partly due to the moms' presence. “We could tell by their body language," she said. "There were two federal officers in front of us that seemed to say, ‘We don’t want to shoot y'all.'"

The moms also showed up on Saturday night, dressed in yellow and carrying sunflowers, chanting "no justice, no peace."

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The #wallofmoms is at the frontline and they’ve put sunflowers through the fence. SUNFLOWERS, y’all. They’re fearlessly wielding flowers. #PortlandProtest
@deborahbloom
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Some have celebrated the moms' involvement, citing their apparent inhibiting effect on the federal agents, the increased media attention, and the terrible optics of tear gassing a bunch of moms.

"I don’t think Trump & his sycophant Chad can win against  @ProjectLincoln  AND the  @WallOfMoms . I am following them on Facebook & twitter & the support from all over the country is growing by the minute. Not a great look to tear gas moms & grandmas linking arms, singing & chanting." two photographs of the yellow clad protesters
@joni_novotnak
https://twitter.com/lalalogan28/status/1285185137727029248
@joni_novotnak
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Sarah Jeong "Wall of moms is extremely sizable. Feds have issued a few warnings now and I haven’t been able to make any of them out due to the jeers of irate moms" responding to embedded "Feds have succeeded in turning #portlandprotests mainstream. a friend from my daughter's school cohort facebooked about joining the "wall of moms" tonight"
@SarahJeong

However, others are less happy, accusing the moms of centring themselves or centring whiteness. Barnum and Wall of Moms has responded to this criticism by reaching out to various Black-led activist groups for direction, and looking for ways to support Black mothers in the meantime.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Barnum and will update this article if she responds

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*First Published: Jul 20, 2020, 3:34 pm