Protesters hold their hands in the air during a Black Lives Matter protest in front of the Multnomah County Justice Center on July 20, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.Nathan Howard / Getty Images
In response to the use of tear gas being utilized by federal officers against demonstrators, including a group of moms, in an uprising in Portland, Oregon, this week, a like-minded dads’ group encouraged others to show up to the event with leaf blowers in order to dissipate the chemical agents.
Uprisings in Portland have happened nightly since the end of May, in response to police violence against Black Americans, including renewed attention to Jason Washington, a Black resident of the city who was shot and killed by police in 2018.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks as federal officers began appearing at the events. Last week, there were reports of agents in unmarked vans stopping next to protesters, whisking them away in the vehicles without stated justification and without identifying who they were. Those actions prompted outcry from Portland residents, and action from a group of mothers who appeared over the weekend to protect demonstrators by standing between them and officers.
Those individuals, known as the Wall of Moms for their way of interlocking arms as a means to protect protesters, were themselves attacked by officers with tear gas during their peaceful demonstrations. On Monday, several social media posts from the group known as “PDX Dad Pod” encouraged its members and others to appear with leaf blowers, even telling users who followed them on social media that it would be a great purchase to support local businesses.
Video from confrontations between demonstrators and officers on Monday night into Tuesday morning highlighted how protesters used hockey sticks to scoot tear gas canisters back toward those who fired them, and the leaf blowers as a means to dissipate clouds of chemicals away from protesters. Smaller leaf blowers were also used to help get chemicals off people’s bodies, video also showed.
A protester by the name of King Turner spoke to local news affiliate KPTV about the demonstrations, and the federal government’s intrusion into the events, suggesting that their presence, not the protesters’, escalated the situation.
“I’ve just had enough. When they started snatching people [off] the street, it becomes apparent that the federal government is just … not in check,” Turner said. “It was even tampering down, and then the feds get involved and lit it up. It’s like throwing gas on a fire” […]