Since taking part in massive protests in Portland, Ore., in recent weeks, the Wall of Moms quickly became a staple of the downtown demonstrations and the subject of much media fascination.
But the mostly white group of mothers has been accused of “anti-Blackness” by another local group led by Black organizers, who say the Wall of Moms overlooked the safety of Black protesters during the demonstrations and were not truly invested in the cause.
Don’t Shoot Portland, a social justice and mutual aid group first formed in 2014, made the allegations public on Wednesday via its Instagram. In it, the org disclosed behind-the-scenes tensions between Black organizers and the Wall of Moms, who had recently agreed to cede leadership roles to Black leaders.
“We began having safety concerns within the group because Black women started saying they were not protected by WOM leadership,” the group wrote on its Instagram. “Too frequently [they] would be in communication for safety, transport etc. and when the time came, there would be zero response and no leadership to rely on. It’s put many on the ground in direct danger.”
Don’t Shoot Portland also called out WOM leadership for filing registrations as a non-profit, a move the group says was covert and indicated other intentions than supporting the BLM movement.
From Oregon Live:
Barnum appeared to file three business registrations on Tuesday including one that makes The Wall of Moms a 501c3 nonprofit. Don’t Shoot Portland interpreted the filings to mean that Wall of Moms goal was to get federal officers out of Portland—not to support Black Lives Matter, according to the Instagram post. The newly instated Black leaders were not told about the registrations, according to the post.
“This was all done in privacy and without the knowledge of the Black leadership WOM was claiming to implement,” the Post read. “The lies are finally clear and we are sad but ultimately not surprised that anti-Blackness showed its ugly face with Wall of Moms.”
As Business Insider reports, WOM said its founder Bev Barnum had “gone rogue” with the decision to register the group. According to a series of Thursday tweets, the group had taken social media access away from Barnum and were trying to regroup to “do things the right way.”
When it first began demonstrating, WOM was applauded for the way it used white women, whom studies show experience arrests and use of force at lower rates than Black women, to protect BLM demonstrators in a city that has been the focus of a violent federal campaign. But as the weeks wore on and the protests intensified, some noted that the First Amendment right to protest itself had become centered in a way that threatened to subsume messages about racial justice and criminal justice reform.
This concern about co-option is at the heart of Don’t Shoot Portland’s callout.
“We were used to further an agenda unrelated to BLM,” said the group. “We need everyone to show up against racism, but it’s even more crucial to prioritize transparency and accountability.”
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