Jennifer Kristiansen is a 37-year-old Portland mother and attorney who was arrested while protesting with the “Wall of Moms,” a group of women who have joined protests outside of the federal courthouse in the Oregon city. Kristiansen told Heavy she was ripped away from a line of fellow moms by federal officers who did not have any insignias or identifying information on their black and camouflage uniforms. Kristiansen also told Heavy she was groped and assaulted by the officer who arrested her. She later learned he was part of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Kristiansen, the mother of a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old, was protesting at the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse for the first time on Monday night, July 21, when she was arrested. Kristiansen had decided to join dozens of other yellow-shirt-wearing mothers who had taken to the streets alongside protesters who have been at the courthouse for more than 50 days supporting Black Lives Matter, calling for police reform and an end to police violence. According to CNN, the moms were spurred to protect the protesters after Department of Homeland Security officers sent to the city by President Donald Trump escalated violence against protesters at the courthouse.
According to federal court records, Kristiansen, who was wearing a pink helmet and a rainbow tutu, along with a respirator mask her husband insisted she wear to help protect herself from tear gas and pepper spray, was charged with assault on a federal officer and failing to obey a lawful order, both misdemeanors. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges and told Heavy she did not assault a federal officer at any point during the protest. Kristiansen said her helmet bore the words, “I am disappointed and angry.”
Kristiansen was taken into custody after midnight, when federal agents emerged from the courthouse and began to use tear gas, flashbang grenades, batons and impact munitions to force the crowd gathered there to disperse, live streams of the protest showed. Court documents filed by prosecutors provide little information about the accusations against her.
The misdemeanor information accuses Kristiansen of “forcible assault” on “Agent Victim 1,” a federal officer who was performing his official duties on July 21. It does not include any other details. It also accuses her of willfully entering federal property and of failing to comply with the lawful direction of federal police officers.
There are no records of any other members of the “Wall of Moms” group being arrested by federal authorities during their three nights at the protests near the courthouse. Kristiansen said she is not sure if any of the other members of the group were taken into custody and then released without charges.
Kristiansen was one of five protesters arrested on July 20 and charged by the Oregon U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to court records. The other four protesters were men. A 22-year-old and a 23-year-old were charged with failing to obey a lawful order, a 44-year-old, who is part of the PDXDadPod, was charged with disorderly conduct on federal property and an 18-year-old was charged with failing to obey a lawful order and disorderly conduct on federal property, records show. All have been released from custody.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshal’s Service did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Heavy.
Kristiansen Said a Federal Agent in Black, Wearing Only a Tag Saying ‘Police DHS,’ Pushed Her Against the Wall of the Courthouse & Groped Her Breast & Buttocks
Federal officers have dispersed protestors using tear gas and batons pic.twitter.com/dCg7YfuDZV
— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) July 21, 2020
A video posted by freelance Portland journalist Sergio Olmos, which you can watch above, captured the moment Kristiansen was pulled away from her fellow moms and taken into the courthouse by federal agents. Kristiansen told Heavy she was in a line with other moms in the front of the protest when “things started to get spicy.” She said federal agents were shooting “out of the murder hole” — a designation protesters have given to holes in the wood planks on the courthouse that federal officers have fired out of at protesters — and “throwing the gas, flashbangs.” Kristiansen said the two women to her right peeled off, because they were only wearing cloth masks, not a respirator like she was. She was then on the end of the line.
Kristiansen said, “We were being pushed back, we’re walking backwards,” but there was a big crowd behind them. “We’re linked arm to arm, so we’re slow, but we are leaving,” she told Heavy. She said she was then pushed by an officer, who was about 6’2″ tall (she said she’s about 5 feet tall), with a baton. She then heard the woman to her left scream that the officer had hit her breast.
Kristiansen said she then used her arm that was free to put herself between her and the officer with the baton. She said if he swung again, she wanted it to be her arm that would be hit, not the other woman’s breast again. She said then, out of nowhere, another federal officer arrived. Both officers only had tags that said “police DHS,” no name tags or anything else identifying themselves or their agency, she said. “I’m a lawyer and even I don’t know what that means,” Kristiansen said.
According to Kristiansen, the newly arrived federal agent said to the other one, “This is the one that hit me.” The officer who had hit them with a baton looked at her and said, “This one hit you?” according to Kristiansen, and the other officer responded yes. He then said, “Whatever,” and started to pull her off the line, she said. The other moms tried to pull her away from the officer, but then two officers in camouflage grabbed her. She said she later realized that one had wrapped his arm around her sternum, leaving her with bruises and tenderness around her chest.
“Before we go in, he pushes me up against the wall, facing the wall, and uses his left hand to cup my right breast,” Kristiansen told Heavy. “And his right hand to flip up my skirt and grab my right butt cheek.” She said, the “thought went through my head, ‘How much worse is this going to be?’ ‘Is this the day I get raped against the building?’ Then it was over and he was dragging me inside.”
Kristiansen said she was taken into the federal building and was not told her charges or told that she was under arrest. They also never read her her rights. She said they handcuffed her behind her back and took her into an elevator. Inside the elevator, she was pushed into a corner by a federal officer, she said. Kristiansen said there were four officers in the elevator with her. One told her to “stop resisting,” and she said back, “I’m 100 pounds, I’m not resisting.” She said he then yelled at her, “Shut up.”
Kristiansen Said the Point of the Protests Is to Change Popular Opinion & Put Pressure on Leaders to Make Change … She Also Says the Feds Need to ‘Get Out of Our Damn Town’
Kristiansen said she has been to protests before but decided to join these specific protests when women she knew joined the “Wall of Moms.” Kristiansen said she knows a lot of the moms from other activism and areas of life, including the local Multnomah County Democrats. Kristiansen said she did not plan to get arrested and expected to be fine. She told her husband she would be home by 1 a.m.
She said because of her arrest, she is not allowed to be at the courthouse. But if not for that, Kristiansen said, she would have been right back out at the protests once her body healed, because it is “too important not to.”
Kristiansen said, “I don’t think the protest and the chants, and the jeers and the signs, and even the moms are going to change the minds of the feds, or the president or Chad Wolf, but that’s not the point. The point is changing popular opinion.” She said once popular opinion is swayed, public officials will be pressured to make changes. She said she hopes federal representatives will demand accountability for the federal officers who are at the courthouse.
Kristiansen worked for a family law firm in Oregon until recently leaving to look for a new job. She graduated from Western Oregon University in 2004 and from the University of Oregon in 2007 with a journalism degree before earning her law degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2015.
Kristiansen said her husband and sister-in-law watched her being arrested on a live stream, something she says she wouldn’t wish on anyone. “The feds need to get out of our damn town and stop doing that to families,” she said.
Kristiansen Said She Is ‘Not Special’ & Said There Should Be More Attention on the Black Mothers Who Have Been Leading Protests Against Police Violence for Years
Kristiansen said she is “not special” but is speaking out about her arrest because she said it was wrongful and because federal police “taking a very small, well dressed white lady without provocation unfortunately gets more news than the mother of a young man who was shot a few years ago who marches every Thursday in front of the justice center downtown,” referencing Letha Winston, the mother of Portland police shooting victim Patrick Kimmons.
“I think more attention needs to be paid to the Black moms who have been out there every single night, the mothers of the Black men in Portland, who have been shot in Portland and do not have justice yet,” Kristiansen told Heavy. She said she and the other “Wall of Moms” participants joined the frontlines after calls were made for white allies to put their bodies on the line.
Kristiansen said many across the country have been saying Portland is the first place where Trump’s Department of Homeland Security is overstepping, but she said it has actually been going on for years:
You’re forgetting about Gitmo, about what the Department of Homeland Security has been doing for years, forgetting about Chicago black sites, immigrant communities and communities of color facing this for years, who have been screaming about this for years. Portland is phase 3. Portland and a photogenic white lady in a rainbow skirt will get attention. We really should have had more attention on this five or 10 years ago, and back to when the Department of Homeland Security was first formed as an agency and people warned that something really bad like this was going to happen and were told to stop fear-mongering and being chicken little. Well the sky fell down on our heads awhile ago.
Local and federal officials, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Governor Kate Brown, have called for Trump to remove the “federal troops” from the city’s streets. Kristiansen said about the federal officers, “They’re not backing down, they’re not backing down at all.”
Kristiansen said she hopes to use her experience to put more attention on the protests and the actions of law enforcement — “If that’s what gets attention on it and these communities of color that have been facing it for years and years and decades,” she said.
“The story should be these Black moms, the leaders of this ongoing protest, two of them are Black moms,” she said. “They’re on the line, too. They weren’t in yellow, but they’re the ones literally leading the march, they’re the ones literally leading the chants. A lot more attention needs to be paid to that. As horrible as my experience was, as painful as my bruises are, I live in a white body.”
Kristiansen Spent Several Hours in Federal Custody Before Being Taken to the County Jail & Spending Time in Isolation Before Her Arraignment
Kristiansen was released from custody after several hours and her first court appearance. It was the first time she’s been arrested. According to Kristiansen, after the elevator ride with the federal gents, when they got upstairs inside the federal building, Kristiansen said she was able to send a cryptic text message to her husband using her watch, because one of her handcuffs was so loose it slipped off her wrist, to let him know she was in custody. Someone called the National Lawyers Guild to get her legal aid, since she was not given a phone call or access to an attorney while in custody. She said federal agents tried to question her, but she invoked her right to remain silent
and the right to an attorney.
She said she would later learn the officers who arrested her were with the U.S. Marshals Service while she was being fingerprinted on Tuesday before her release. Kristiansen said she was left with a “literal handprint bruise,” on her arm.
According to Kristiansen, she was the only woman arrested Monday night and held at the federal building, so she was in a holding cell by herself for several hours, with just a metal bench and a metal prison toilet sink. She said she was not given food or a blanket. She was taken in an unmarked SUV to the Multnomah County Detention Center about 7:15 a.m. and booked there. Kristiansen told Heavy the deputies at the sheriff’s office jail said it was “unusual” that she and the four men she was arrested with were wearing ankle shackles. She said she showed the deputies her bruises and they said that’s how the federal officers do things.
Kristiansen said the jail staff were kind and gave her food. She spent several hours in a solitary confinement cell, because she could not be put into general population due to the pandemic. About 1:30 p.m., she was taken back to the courthouse for her arraignment. She said after pleading not guilty, she was released. She said she and the others were not given back their personal belongings, including her ID, phone and everything else she had with her.
Kristiansen said she has an attorney who she will be working with on the next steps of her case. According to federal court records, Kristiansen was released under the conditions that she comply with a curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. and not enter the five blocks that surround the U.S. Courthouse unless she has official court business there or approval of the court.
Kristiansen is facing two misdemeanors: assault on a federal officer and failing to obey a lawful order. Assault on a federal officer is a class A misdemeanor that carries up to 1 year in prison. The other charge is a petty offense, or class C misdemeanor.
She and the other protesters were released about 4:30 p.m.
Kristiansen wrote in the Wall of Moms group after her release, “To the angels who called NLG, and were therefore able to let my husband know what happened, thank you from the bottom of my cold, black heart. … My husband has heard me tell the whole tale twice now, and has stopped being angry at me for being careless (his perception, just based on what he saw from the live feeds), and is now *livid* at the men who roughed up & groped his wife. My bruises are SPECTACULAR.”