I’m a Mom Who Came Out to Protest for Black Lives in Portland. I Was Shot by Federal Agents

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Courtesy Joan Henderson-Gaither/Ellen Urbani

Our president wants you to believe I am a terrorist, a professional agitator stalking the Pacific Northwest.

Four days before federal agents shoot me in Portland, Ore., I riffle through the garage, shooing spiders from my son’s snowboarding helmet. Will it buckle beneath a steel baton? I press my daughter’s swim goggles to my face, testing the fit. Can they repel tear gas? I run my hands over my husband’s life jacket. Can it stop a bullet?

I don’t yet realize how many other moms are slipping oven mitts into backpacks (to minimize burns when tossing aside flaming grenades and tear-gas canisters), how many dads are hoisting leaf blowers from sheds (to clear tear gas), how many teens are gathering plastic toboggans to shield themselves from officers in combat fatigues aiming stun-grenade launchers through temporary fencing around the federal courthouse. This is what happens when you rattle the barricade that policymakers hide behind, screaming “Black lives matter,” protesting for 60-plus nights the brutal tactics officers use to kill Black men on camera and Black women in beds.

Members of the “Wall of Moms” lock their arms during a Black Lives Matter protest at the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, on July 23, 2020. Six days later, the group would effectively disband.  Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

The night I am shot, the sky shimmers with a leftover Fourth of July firework lit by a privileged son whose college closed in the spring. He is here because Black lives matter to him but also because he senses the video game he now plays nightly has sprung to life and he won’t be left out. That boy is pretext, he and his friends tossing plastic water bottles at stone walls, justification for an elite force to quell a gathering of Black people and their allies at the door of the same courthouse where four years earlier the white militiamen who led an armed takeover of another federal building in Oregon were acquitted of any wrongdoing in a 41-day siege.

Continued: Time.

Additional reading; VOX (“How Portland’s Wall of Moms collapsed — and was reborn under Black leadership”)