Wall of Moms, DadPods, Riot Ribs, Pacific Northwest Liberation Front: Some of the groups that have converged in PortlandcloseVideo
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Questions remain over who is organizing the crowds that have filled Portland’s streets for more than 60 consecutive nights since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Demonstrators have thrown fireworks and Molotov cocktails over a fence where federal officers are embedded to protect the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse. On Monday night, an incendiary device thrown by someone in the crowd of hundreds exploded outside the courthouse “causing a report to be heard and felt more than a block away,” according to the Portland Police Bureau.
Federal officers responded by issuing warnings over megaphones, directing crowds to disperse before firing riot ammunition, pepper balls and CS gas. Though mostly Democratic officials have defended the actions of “peaceful protesters” in the liberal city, police on Sunday night uncovered a bag full of rifle ammunition and materials used to make Molotov cocktails while responding to Lownsdale Park.
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One person was arrested for allegedly attacking a federal officer with a hammer earlier this month.
A lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C. on Monday on behalf of the anti-racist organization Don't Shoot Portland and Wall of Moms, a group of mothers who have sought to insert themselves between protesters and police despite being blasted with tear gas, criticizes the Trump administration for what they describe as an out-of-control response by federal agents to demonstrations in Portland.
Meanwhile, a group of anti-capitalist, anti-fascist teens who call themselves the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front has provided tactical advice to demonstrators seen wearing helmets, eye goggles and umbrellas. A group called the PDX Dad Pods has used leaf blowers to direct gases away from crowds. A group of "witches" camped out at the park across the street from the courthouse claims federal officers destroyed their tents with medical supplies meant for protesters.
Demonstrators light a fire during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Monday, July 27, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Their message seems clear: President Trump is to blame for aggravating tensions. But the Portland Police Bureau clashed with protesters for over a month before federal agents – under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security – came to protect federal property on the July 4th weekend. Officials have also suggested the far-left militant group Antifa was infiltrating crowds.
Businesses in downtown Portland have reported at least $4.5 million in damages amid the nearly two months of civil unrest. Multnomah County officials estimated that damage to the Justice Center and a nearby courthouse exceeded $284,000, according to U.S. District Court filings.
Here’s a summary of some of the groups unofficially organized using social media:
Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front
An unverified Twitter account for the PNW Youth Liberation Front defines itself as a “decentralized network of autonomous youth collectives dedicated to direct action towards total liberation.”
The account provides tactical advice for protesters bent on confronting law enforcement. It has advised teens to not answer questions posed by law enforcement officials or the press. The group has also retweeted messages directing people to send money using the mobile payment service Venmo to contribute to pay the bail of those arrested during the nighttime violence.
“We are calling on all abolitionists, youth or non-youth, to coordinate mass protests on July 25th to show the world that the fire of this uprising is still burning strong, and that flames will just keep getting bigger until the police state has been dismantled once and for all,” a statement on their website said.
Demonstrators draw a peace sign in front of a fire during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP)
“This call to action comes right after Trump has announced he will be sending the federal troops that have been occupying Portland, Oregon, all across the nation. The Federal Government has already waged war against Portland, which has been protesting everyday [sic] for 50 days straight, and now feds are going to war against protesters everywhere in an attempt to take control and snuff out the fire of this uprising. We must become more powerful than them.”
The group has factions in other major U.S. cities, according to the Seattle Times. An anonymous group of teenagers, the PNW Youth Liberation Front has also criticized White millenials and baby boomers, alleging they are the generation willing to put their bodies on the front lines of the protests, according to the Seattle Times.
In one supposed battle cry on July 5, the group tweeted: “Be like water, keep moving. If you see someone smashing windows, shut the f*** up. Walk, don’t run. Hold the front and back lines.”
A man reportedly set up a grill on the corner or SW 3rd and Salmon St. to provide protesters and passersby with free food during the July Fourth weekend. The operation has since attracted dozens of volunteers who have been cooking ribs and other meals for protesters in Lownsdale Park, which is across the street from the courthouse, Portland Mercury reported.
The group claims it has raised more than $300,000 in donations, The Oregonian reported. Police have seized Riot Ribs' supplies from the park at least once, on July 16.
But on Monday, Riot Ribs said it needed to dissolve completely after threats against their safety and after learning that one person has been trying to falsely collect money from people in the park on their behalf.
“Riot Ribs is dissolving completely,” a tweet said Monday. “We have someone who is trying to profit off of our movement who continues to volunteer in the park, pretending he’s involved with Riot Ribs.”
The unofficial account said somebody has been frequenting Lownsdale Park posing as one of the cooks with Riot Ribs and asking protesters to donate to money using CashApp.
Demonstrators march during a Black Lives Matter protest Friday, July 24, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP)
Wall of Moms
Days after a legal effort by the state of Oregon failed, protesters sued the Trump administration on Monday to rein in what they describe as an out-of-control response by federal agents to demonstrations in Portland.
The nonprofit Protect Democracy filed the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of several individual protesters as well as the anti-racist organization Don't Shoot Portland and Wall of Moms, a group of mothers who have sought to insert themselves between protesters and police despite being blasted with tear gas.
The complaint argues that while federal law allows federal officials to protect federal property, the heavily militarized agents who have responded in Portland have gone far beyond simply protecting property. Instead, according to the complaint, they have repeatedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades at the crowds in an effort to quell the protests in violation of the Constitution.
“The intent of the administration’s deployment of federal agents in Portland appears to be to stifle speech the president doesn’t like," Protect Democracy lawyer Deana El-Mallawany said in a news release. "It’s important to check this unlawful administration policy now, before it is allowed to spread to other cities across the U.S."
The complaint accuses President Trump of trying to create a federal domestic police force. Trump has announced he will also send federal agents to Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M., to fight rising crime, despite objections from leaders there.
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PDX Dad Pods
The group said on Twitter it is “putting dad bods on the line to stop fascism.” It has called for people to use leaf blowers to direct gas away from crowds. Their account shared a link calling for moms, dads and veterans to assemble to “turbo-charge this uprising.”
The link on volunteersignup.org allows people to register for time slots or “shifts” to make shields, run supplies, help Riot Ribs and educate people on “de-escalation skills.” The group also called on “Red Cross certified nurses” to sign up for shifts to remain in Lownsdale Park at night in case people need medical attention.