How do you protest against anarchy
"I am the face of anarchy" : Angry mothers oppose Trump
Desiree LaBella sees despair and anger in her eyes. With two framed photos of her son in her hands, she faces police officers in protective gear. "Stop letting the situation escalate," she yells. "This is my son!"
Two days earlier, a federal police officer shot her son Donavan LaBella in the head during the anti-racism and police violence protests in Portland, Oregon. It is not known which weapon it was exactly. The fact is: LaBella's son was admitted to a hospital with a broken face, where parts of his skull had to be reconstructed in an operation.
LaBella, whose courageous appearance has already been seen thousands of times in a video on Twitter, is one of hundreds of mothers who have stood in the way of masked federal police and border officials in Portland since last Saturday. They want to protect the demonstrators in the midst of the brutal riots - if need be, with their own bodies.
The women refer to themselves as the "Wall of Moms". Their distinguishing marks: colorful bicycle helmets, yellow clothes. And: everyone is wearing cloth masks. Many have put on diving goggles to protect their eyes.
Last Saturday, the mothers gathered for the first time in front of the courthouse in Portland, the hotspot of anti-racism demonstrations in Oregon. They shouted: “Feds stay clear! Moms are here! " ("Federal police officers, stay away! The mothers are here!") And "Leave our kids alone!" ("Leave our children alone!"). Around 30 women became around 400 in the course of the evening.
The initiator of the protests, Bev Barnum, called for the action on Facebook. The trigger was a video that shows two armed federal officials how they forcibly drag a demonstrator into a civilian vehicle for no reason.
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In her appeal, Barnum wrote: "... recently the protesters have been robbed of their rights by being dragged into unmarked cars by unidentifiable officers." She herself has never been to a demonstration before.
"I am the face of anarchy"
The initiator wanted the mothers to dress up as if they were going shopping - quite normal, and not as one would imagine demonstrators. She hoped that the officers would automatically perceive her inconspicuous appearance as less threatening, she wrote. In one of their choirs, the mothers sing: “Your hands are up, please don't shoot”. You intonate the lines as if you were singing a lullaby to a child.
Some mothers also try humor and hold up banners that read, "I'm disappointed in you - your mother."
Allison Hyder, grandmother of five, has also been in the sunflower-yellow rows of the mother's protective wall since Tuesday. "I am the face of anarchy," she told the New York Times. And further: "Mothers, grandmothers and nannies are out there demanding equal rights for everyone in the middle of the night!"
Protests in Portland have continued since the assassination of George Floyd, although they have subsided in many other parts of the country. There have been demonstrations in the city for 55 days in a row, some of which are accompanied by rioting and violence by the police. Portland police declared a state of emergency on Sunday after protesters set fire to the police union building.
Portland as Trump's campaign stage
US President Trump is meanwhile using the riots as a political stage for his election campaign. In the polls he is now clearly behind his competitor, the Democrat Joe Biden. Trump's strategy: to present himself as a “law and order” man who takes tough action. In June, he sent federal police and border guards to Portland by decree against the will of the city and state, both of which are democratically governed.
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On Monday, Trump declared that the situation in the US was "worse than in Afghanistan" because of the anti-racism protests and claimed that he only wanted to help Portland.
The deployed special forces are meanwhile using tear gas, batons and bullets against the demonstrators. Their faces are hidden behind gas masks. Since the federal police have been in town, the situation has escalated.
Tear gas against the mother's wall
And the “Wall of Moms” also got caught up in the spiral of violence - contrary to Barnum's hopes that the mothers would be spared precisely because of their appearance. On Saturday evening, during the first day of the “Moms” protest, the federal officials broke up the mothers demo. Late in the evening, they used stun grenades, batons and tear gas against the demonstrators.
The violent action by the officials did not detract from the protest. On the following days, too, the mothers put on their yellow T-shirts, put on their helmets and went to demonstrate. And again the police used tear gas against the demonstrators, as they did last Tuesday night, as shown by videos on Twitter.
Initiator Barnum sees her protest as a success so far. Because she thinks that she has noticed at least slight doubts about their actions against the women among the officials.
But the mothers don't want to be heroines, she told the news portal "Buzz Feed News". "This is about Black Lives Matter and not about white women who are marching in and save the day!" Barnum wants to use her privilege to be perceived as white and to protect black demonstrators from attacks by the police.
In the meantime, Trump has announced that he will send federal police officers to other democratically governed cities. He spoke of missions in Chicago and New York. The US Department of Homeland Security is already preparing the deployment of 150 forces in Chicago.
The Mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, has meanwhile criticized the officials' "unconstitutional tactics", which allowed the situation to escalate dangerously. This actually leads to "more violence and more vandalism". Trump, on the other hand, hopes it will lead to more votes. He does not want to withdraw the Portland officials.
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