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Group of yellow-shirted women who stood at the front of downtown protests says Bev Barnum 'fired' after 'internal investigation'

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Portland's Wall of Moms' yellow-clad women joined others during a downtown rally outside the federal courthouse on Southwest Third Avenue. One of the Wall of Moms leaders was ousted Saturday, Aug. 1, by the group.A leadership dispute within Portland's protest Wall of Moms and an ongoing social media tussle led Saturday to the ouster of one of its founders.

An Aug. 1 post on the group's Facebook page said Bev Barnum of Portland was "fired" from the organization. Barnum was one of the people who helped organize the group during the past few weeks of protests outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on downtown Portland's Southwest Third Avenue. She also did several television and print media interviews about the group.

The Wall of Moms was an ad hoc organization of women of all races and ages supporting the Black Lives Matter movement who gathered each night in yellow shirts for the past several weeks outside the courthouse, linking arms and protecting other protesters from actions by federal agents. The group captured the spirit of the protests and attracted media attention. News stories were broadcast on nearly every network and published in The New York Times and the Washington Post, among other papers.

GoFundMe fundraising campaigns were also started for the group, raising more than $12,000.

On July 24, the Wall of Moms filed paperwork with the state to become a nonprofit public benefit organization. Four days later, the group filed state articles of incorporation, listing Barnum as president and Portland resident Jaclyn Pritchard as secretary. The group also filed to become a political action committee, and planned to seek IRS approval as a tax-exempt, nonprofit charitable organization.

A week later, Pritchard announced on the Wall of Moms Facebook page that Barnum was out of the group. "After our internal investigation, we confirmed violations of our social policies between Wall of Moms and the Black Lives Matter community," Pritchard wrote. "We apologize to the African American community and all volunteers of Wall of Moms for the hurt and chaos this has created, especially when you are risking your lives. We are working on reconciliation, more to come."

Wall of Moms' leaders have not yet agreed to interview requests.

Barnum responded on her Facebook page that she had made mistakes. "I should have included all WOM in the background happenings," Barnum wrote. "There was so much happening all at once. So much that I wasn't prepared for. WOM should have had a say in how we would go forward from the very beginning. I'm sorry for not being transparent. I'm sorry for not including you in the decision-making process. Wish that I could (go) back and listen to WOM's voices as opposed to a handful of WOM's in leadership positions. But I can't."

The leadership change comes after tensions among Wall of Moms members led to creation of a second group, Moms United for Black Lives. Several Wall of Moms participants left the group and joined the Moms United for Black Lives, leading to a social media clash that played out on Facebook.

Barnum said she had received death threats and that people had "called her a thief" even though all people involved in the organization were volunteers.

"WOM was formed out of necessity," Barnum wrote. "The 501c3 was formed out of necessity. And finally, the WOM PAC was formed out of hope — hope that we as WOM's could impact Oregon not only with our yellow shirts, but also by supporting candidates that support human rights — most especially Black human rights."

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