They started in Portland, but now the movement has spread to various cities across the United States. We are talking about the Wall of Mothers. During the protests of the last period it has risen again and again around the protesters to prevent the federal agents sent by President Donald Trump from arresting and attacking them.
Mothers are here
Protected with helmets and masks and with their arms interlocked, they shout “Agents, get out. Mothers are here”, they carry banners against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
No one knows if they are the mothers of any of the protesters, but neither does it matter. Their gesture is symbolic and responds to the screams of George Floyd, who repeatedly called his mother shortly before the police killed him last May. They define themselves as a non-violent movement. They protest because they claim that they are arresting people without reason and without respecting their rights. According to the New York Times, the founder of the movement was Beverley Barnum, a Portland woman and mother of two. One night she came across several videos on social media showing how federal agents detained protesters and put them in cars not identified as police vehicles. Through Facebook, Beverley called in a dozen mothers, who first showed up at a demonstration in Portland on July 18.
The diffusion of the movement
Since then, the group has been growing, and mothers have been present at the protests on a daily basis. Many of them wore a yellow garment. They have also been joined by a “parent wall”, which comes with leaf blowers to divert tear gas that the agents throw at the protesters. Also, the Wall of Mothers movement has already spread to other cities in the country such as Seattle, Oakland, Aurora or Albuquerque, among many others. It has been so successful that they have even created an instruction manual aimed to all of those who want to start a wall in their city.
As many of you may have read and seen on the news, they are injuring protesters for no reason. Black, indigenous or people of colour are in the spotlight. For 400 years, black mothers have been on the front lines fighting for racial justice. We exist to amplify their voices and to maintain a physical line that serves as a barrier between federal agents and the police and their sons and daughters.The Wall of Mothers
A different kind of mothers
Not all are mothers. The Portland Wall, for example, includes women who are not mothers, as well as non-binary people. Nevertheless, the majority of Wall of Mothers members are white women, although they insist on remembering that black mothers were the ones who started this movement.
The mothers did not appear a couple of nights ago. Black mothers have always been there.Jennifer Kristiansen, one of the Portland mothers
The cases of police brutality
Although many of these women had not previously participated in a demonstration, police brutality has led them to mobilize and join the organization “Don’t Shoot Portland”, which fights against this type of violence. They also filed a lawsuit against the american Department of Homeland Security, alleging that officers are violating their freedom of expression and assembly, using excessive force and exceeding their authority.
The police deployment ordered by Trump is being very controversial and many people, including the mayor of Portland himself, have opposed it as extremely violent and undemocratic. The President of the United States has no power to deploy the Army beyond the capital, Washington D.C., which is a federal district. In the other states, it must be the governors who order the deployment of troops. Still, on June 26, Trump decided to send federal agents and other paramilitary forces to Portland on the pretext of protecting federal monuments and buildings. This has only contributed to increase tension and has led many people to view the presence of these agents in the city as an abuse of power.
A powerful symbol
The Wall of Mothers has become a powerful symbol of anti-racist protests. Images of officers firing tear gas at them have been around the world. This movement is the heir to other activist organizations such as Mothers Against Police Brutality.
The power of being a mother, whether you have lost a child or not, is that just because you are a child, you are able to absorb the pain of another mother. That becomes a powerful chain of resistance.Collette Flanagan, founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality
Teressa Raiford, executive director of Don’t Shoot Portland, acknowledges that the Wall of Moms is helping to give visibility to the protests, but also to humanize protesters in the face of the criminalization campaign carried out by the Trump administration. And although she does not hesitate to point out that the mothers’ movement has only obtained the media attention it deserved when white women have taken the front line – despite the fact that black mothers have been fighting for the same thing for years – she affirms that they are all working towards a common goal.
We are literally building a sustainable aid system. And that’s what mothers do.Teressa Raiford