How Portland’s Wall of Moms collapsed – and was reborn under Black leadership

Last Wednesday, the Wall of Moms Facebook group descended into chaos. One woman said a group of Black moms was left unprotected at a rally in downtown Portland, Oregon. Another claimed that group leader Bev Barnum had co-opted Black Lives Matter for her own gain. There were endless threads of comments from women disappointed that the protest group – made up of mothers and grandmothers who had gained international recognition for standing on the front line of the city’s protests – seemed to have lost its way. The Wall of Moms, at least the original version, was collapsing. It had lasted for all of 10 days. When the group assembled on July 18 through a call to action from Barnum on Facebook, the mission was simple: Be physically present for Black lives. Last month, federal agents descended on the city to protect federal buildings, which only intensified the protests that have been ongoing since the police killing of George Floyd. Portland mothers, most of them non-Black, were called on to act as a shield against the tear gas and excessive force that police officers used to terrorize protesters. But by the middle of last week, many of the mothers in the private Wall of Moms Facebook group, which had garnered nearly 20,000 members, were questioning the direction of the organization, disappointed that it no longer seemed to center Black lives. A number of the moms accused Barnum, who is Mexican American, of only being interested in pressuring federal troops to leave Portland, not in the greater issue of justice for Black lives; Barnum had tried to register Wall of Moms as a business without the approval of fellow Black leaders.

Fabiola Cineas in How Portland’s Wall of Moms collapsed — and was reborn under Black leadership (