Pass the Portland popcorn: Wall of Moms accused of "anti-Blackness" by fellow protesters

Revolutions, especially “glorious people’s revolutions,” have one quality in common — the tendency to eat themselves. Robespierre discovered this just a bit too late during the French revolution, so the Portland Wall of Moms have no excuse for being caught unawares. The stunt group at the front of the Portland riots acting as pseudo-human shields got denounced by Don’t Shoot Portland, the Black Lives Matter-affiliated group that had demanded more of a leadership role within the PWoM.


Hilarity eventually ensued:

Portland Wall of Moms, a group formed in recent weeks and quickly recognized as a staple of nightly downtown protests, was accused publicly Wednesday of “anti-Blackness” by leaders of an existing, Black-led community group.

Wall of Moms, whose members said they aimed to support and protect other Black Lives Matter protesters near the fence in front of the federal courthouse, announced Friday that its white leadership had rescinded their positions to allow women of color to be in charge. New leaders announced Friday include Teressa Raiford, executive director of Don’t Shoot Portland, Demetria Hester and Danialle James.

But less than a week later, Don’t Shoot Portland took to Instagram to urge people against supporting the Wall of Moms, saying that it was no longer working with the moms group.

Don’t Shoot Portland accused PWoM of attempting to seize back control of their own group by filing incorporating paperwork with Oregon without consulting DSP. This is evidence of “anti-Blackness,” DSP accused in the Instagram denouncement announcement:

This kitchen-sink explanation offers many reasons for the disaffection between the two groups, but it’s clearly the issue of control of PWoM that is the main issue. Their statement complains of “safety” issues, saying that PWoM’s lack of communication “put many on the ground in direct danger.” Taking part in riots is what put their members in “direct danger.” To the extent that the so-called Wall of Moms acted as human shields, that mitigated the danger, at least theoretically, so it’s unclear why that had to be coordinated through DSP at all.


The speed of the rupture is notable in itself. Just a few days ago, MSNBC’s Ari Melber was featuring the Wall of Moms as heroes of the Portland uprising. Bev Barnum got a lot of national notoriety, which might have been triggered some resentment:

Even at that time, though, storm clouds were gathering. Byron York writes that trouble has been brewing for a while between the groups conducting demonstrations and riots in Portland:

The paper reported that members of a black-led group, Don’t Shoot Portland, which has existed for six years and is affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, have accused the leaders of Wall of Moms of “anti-Blackness.”

Trouble was brewing last week, the Oregonian reported, when Wall of Moms announced on Friday “that its white leadership had rescinded their positions to allow women of color to be in charge.” But that wasn’t enough. On Wednesday, Don’t Shoot Portland took a very big shot at the Wall of Moms, charging that the group is only interested in driving federal law enforcement out of Portland and perpetuating itself — not in supporting black causes.

Wall of Moms had also started incorporating itself in other cities and states, the New York Times reported just a couple of days ago. That might also have set off DSP and other groups who want to keep a tight grip on protests and activism, especially given the composition of these groups:

Wall of Moms marchers are mostly white, and many are first-time protesters.

The Wall of Moms groups consist of predominantly white women who have garnered a swell of attention that Black mothers protesting in Portland for months did not receive, participants and organizers said in interviews. That attention is not lost on the participants nor the organizations they partner with, some said. “Black moms are leading this,” said Jennifer Kristiansen, 37, a lawyer and Wall of Moms member who was arrested during a Portland demonstration. “Moms didn’t just show up a couple nights ago. Black moms have always been there.” …

Wall of Moms groups in Missouri, North Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Chicago and Maryland are reaching out to local activists and plotting their next steps, organizers from each group said in interviews.


It does seem that WoM is very interested in self-perpetuation, as any group would be, although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not interested in the ostensible mission for their activism too. However, we’ve certainly seen a pattern of causes turning into industries that benefit organizers while not doing much for the causes that inspired them, York notes. Does that apply to WoM, and willthe DSP denunciation “anti-Blackness” kill that business model?

So now, riven by racial strife, the future of the newly-incorporated Wall of Moms is unclear. Remember the saying from the American intellectual Eric Hoffer: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” Wall of Moms transitioned from the movement stage to the business stage in record time — a matter of days. It may already be well on its way to becoming a racket.

So at the very moment the national media celebrated Wall of Moms as a movement spreading across the country, singing lullabies and handing out sunflowers, the original Wall of Moms in Portland was collapsing from its own internal tensions. Should anyone be surprised?

Surprised? Naah, although the speed of the collapse is certainly remarkable. Amused? Certainly. Popcorn? Much appreciated.

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