The Current

Women form 'Wall of Moms' to protect protesters after Trump sends troops into Portland

Anti-racism protests in Portland have intensified after U.S. President Donald Trump deployed federal troops, who have been accused of violence. Dozens of women have formed a 'Wall of Moms' to protect protesters.

Federal agents accused of violence, forcing protesters into unmarked vans

Protesters in Portland, Ore. Anti-racism protests in the city have intensified after U.S. President Donald Trump deployed federal troops, who have been accused of violence. (Submitted by Brenna Burnett)

Read story transcript

Before joining the "Wall of Moms" at protests in Portland, Ore., Monday night, Brenna Burnett got some words of encouragement from her four-and-a-half-year-old daughter. 

"My daughter, before I left last night said 'Make sure you wear all of your gear, Momma, and if you get arrested, Dad will be right there,'" said Burnett, a florist by day. 

Burnett is part of a group of mothers who are gathering nightly to form a "Wall of Moms" — some dressed in yellow and holding sunflowers — to separate peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters and federal agents.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the agents are there to protect federal monuments and buildings, but they have been accused of violence against protesters.

Burnett told The Current's guest host Robyn Bresnahan that she has explained to her daughter "that because we are white, there is privilege, and we need to use that privilege."

"Right now that's showing up as a mom, and we form a wall to protect the protesters until there is no one left to defend," she said. 

She said her group wants to help fight the "outrageous" injustices faced by Black people.

"I am committed to the lifelong goal of being anti-racist … I think it's incredibly important right now to stand up and speak up, and I want to teach my daughter the same values."

Protests have been ongoing in Portland since the death of George Floyd, but Portland's Mayor Ted Wheeler said the troops' presence is causing an escalation in violence, and asked for them to leave.

Trump has refused, suggesting instead he will send more troops to Portland and other cities. 

The armed federal agents have been pictured wearing camouflage with no identifying badges or numbers, and accused of picking protesters off the street without explanation.

Officials demand troops out of Portland, Trump threatens more force

2 years ago
Duration 2:05
State and local officials in Oregon are demanding federal authorities, brought in to break up protests, get out of Portland. But U.S. President Donald Trump wants to expand his law-and-order plans to other cities, blaming Democrats for the ongoing protests and unrest.

Speaking to CBC's As It Happens Monday, 29-year-old protester Mark Pettibone said he was forced into an unmarked van last week.

"They pulled my beanie over my face and held my hands over my head, and they drove me into a large garage," he told As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue.

"I didn't know who they were until they brought me into what I would later learn was the federal courthouse there," he said.

"They took a photo of me with what appeared to be an iPhone and cuffed my hands and ankles and put me into a cell."

Tactics to 'intimidate people'

Civil rights lawyer Ashlee Albies said Pettibone's detention may not have been legal.

"In order to arrest someone, you need probable cause," said Albies, who is based in Portland and works with the National Lawyers Guild.

"The description that's coming out about what this person was suspected of, it doesn't appear that there was probable cause," she told Bresnahan.

Federal agents use crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland on Monday. (Noah Berger/The Associated Press)

She described the actions of federal agents as tactics "designed to intimidate people," saying that "the people that are being targeted are anyone and everyone who's engaging in protests."

"That's deeply concerning to many people in the city," she said.

She added that "once Trump sent federal agents in and they began attacking protesters, it really invigorated the protests."

"It has brought out many more protesters," she said.

The "Wall of Moms" is predominantly white, which Burnett thinks has led to them being treated differently to the Black mothers who "have been on the front lines fighting for decades."

"I think we would be met with incredible force compared to what has happened — it's blatant racism," she said.

She doesn't want the media coverage of what they're doing to inadvertently silence Black voices.

"The focus has been put on white moms showing up. And that is not why we are there."

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Howard Goldenthal, Peter Mitton, Lindsay Rempel and Cameron Perrier.

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