As Portland, Oregon’s protests continue, the city’s parents are equipping themselves with leaf blowers and shields on the front lines to protect crowds from militarized violence.
Two months after George Floyd’s death sparked nightly demonstrations against anti-Black police brutality, Portland’s “Wall of Moms” gained an international following; the large group of mothers regularly forms human barricades and carry homemade shields in order to prevent U.S. federal agents from using excessive force on protestors or detaining them without identifying themselves.
As police continue to use tear gas — a chemical weapon that’s made people spontaneously menstruate, known for adverse long-term effects on the reproductive system, and is being criticized for irresponsible use during a respiratory-related global health crisis — Portland’s dads are stepping in to keep people safe, with the help of a common gardening tool.
Dads with cordless leaf blowers are using their landscaping prowess to blow gusts at oncoming tear gas attacks, a tactic which appears to effectively volley the gas back and clear the streets of the noxious chemical agent in several clips posted on Twitter.
In one video, a deployed canister was returned to sender by a protester armed with a hockey stick.
The fatherly allyship is warming hearts online, as many were quick to applaud their efforts (as well as ask for reinforcements; a timely call to action, as U.S. president Donald Trump’s federal squads have copied the leaf blower technique).
One concerned grandfather drove for hours to join the protests. In an interview with freelance journalist Sergio Olmos, Black Lives Matter supporter Peter Buck said that he came from Olympia, Wash., to lend a hand to the dads.
“I’m aghast at the federal troops, such a violation of the Constitution,” he said.
As one anonymous source told Truthout, an outlet that’s been covering Portland’s protests extensively, the leaf blowers are effective visible displays of resistance against tear gas usage.
“Honestly, I think you’d need scores of leaf blowers with a phalanx of dads holding their ground under pretty perfect conditions to use them effectively in the dispersal of chemical agents,” he told Truthout. “But they are an iconic symbol of a tool dads use to clean up messes.”