Meet the moms who made a human wall to protect protesters in Portland

"We moms are often underestimated."

July 20, 2020, 1:22 PM

As protesters continue to clash with federal law enforcement agents in Portland, Oregon, a group of moms stepped up to help protect the protesters.

More than two dozen women created what they called a Wall of Moms over the weekend to create a barrier between protesters and federal officers, who are under fire for their use of force against people protesting police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.

The women, who wore face masks and helmets for safety, chanted, "Feds steer clear, moms are here," as they linked arms to form the barrier, according to ABC News' Kayna Whitworth, who is covering the protests in Portland.

"Many of them who were here last night tell me they were tear gassed by federal authorities - but they are back today - and they brought their friends," Whitworth wrote on Instagram.

The Wall of Moms is the brainchild of Bev Barnum, a mom of two teenagers who organized a Facebook event calling on moms to meet at the protest site on Saturday evening.

"We moms are often underestimated. But we’re stronger than we’re given credit for," Barnum wrote on Facebook. "So what do you say, will you stand with me? Will you help me create a wall of moms?"

Barnum said she was motivated to act after seeing a video on Twitter Friday night that she said showed a protester being thrown into a van.

"I felt like I needed to protect them but I didn’t know how. I’ve never protested before," Barnum told "Good Morning America." "I went on the Portland working moms group [page] and made a post saying I had never protested before but I thought it was time and would you do it with me."

"This was at midnight and within an hour or two I had like 70 moms saying yes, and sure enough they showed up," she said.

PHOTO: Moms form a human shield near the Federal Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, July 19, 2020, during another night of protests in the city.
Moms form a human shield near the Federal Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, July 19, 2020, during another night of protests in the city.
Leslie Spurlock/Zuma Press

Barnum later connected with another activist group, Portland Don't Shoot, that gave her and her fellow moms tips for protesting safely. As many as 70 women showed up to protest Saturday evening, and more than two dozen of them stayed through the night, eventually getting hit with tear gas, according to Barnum.

"Getting shot and gassed and vomiting all over myself and not being able to see, something clicked in my brain and I was like how could we collectively as mothers let our kids do this?," she said. "I got home and showered and I told my husband we were going out the next night."

PHOTO: Moms form a human shield as CBP agents prepare to fire tear gas and flash bangs at the Federal Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, July 19, 2020, during another night of protests in the city.
Moms form a human shield as CBP agents prepare to fire tear gas and flash bangs at the Federal Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, July 19, 2020, during another night of protests in the city.
Leslie Spurlock/Zuma Press

Barnum and two other women also formed a Wall of Moms group on Facebook that now has nearly 3,000 members, including everyone from local moms interested in attending a protest to moms in states across the country asking how they can help.

PHOTO: Mothers stand between federal law enforcement officials and demonstrators during a protest against racial inequality in Portland, Oregon, July 19, 2020.
Mothers stand between federal law enforcement officials and demonstrators during a protest against racial inequality in Portland, Oregon, July 19, 2020.
Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

"We got gassed last night and it did suck, but we’ve all been through childbirth, IEP meetings, and long barf-filled nights," Maureen Kenny Mimiaga, one of Barnum's co-founders, wrote on Facebook. "We got this."

Barnum said she and the women she has rallied are committing to attending protests in Portland "until it’s over, when the Portland Police Department is held accountable just as much as the [federal officers]."

"I want to say that I’m surprised but deep down I’m not," she said of the commitment of herself and fellow moms to the issue. "As soon as you become a mom, something is triggered in you. It’s primal. It doesn’t matter if it’s your kid or not, you’re going to help them. If you see a kid drowning, you’re going to jump into the water."

"I’m proud of us," added Barnum. "We’re not throwing bricks. We’re not throwing water bottles. We’re not being violent."

The federal agents deployed in Portland this week were part of a Department of Homeland Security task force established to respond to the growing protests and acts of civil disobedience that came after the death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

PHOTO: Mothers stand between federal law enforcement officials and demonstrators during a protest against racial inequality in Portland, Oregon, July 19, 2020.
Mothers stand between federal law enforcement officials and demonstrators during a protest against racial inequality in Portland, Oregon, July 19, 2020.
Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

The state's attorney general has launched a criminal investigation into two "unlawful" tactics allegedly made by federal agents.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum also announced she filed a federal civil lawsuit on Friday evening against the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to begin the process for a restraining order to stop the agents "from unlawfully detaining Oregonians."

ABC News' Christina Carrega contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events