Behind the Dad Bod Brigade

Behind the Dad Bod Brigade (A protester uses a leaf blower to direct tear gas back towards the federal police in Portland on July 25, 2020. (Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images))

The protests in Portland, Oregon against police brutality have continued, the latest this week, in the wake of a police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Earlier this summer, President Donald Trump sent federal troops to the city because of ongoing protests. Federal authorities were in Portland for weeks until the city began gaining national attention after posts on social media went viral showing protesters facing violent countermeasures by federal agents.

One tweet included a video of a “wall of moms” standing between the federal troops and more vulnerable protestors. After that, images of dads at a protest with leaf blowers from a new activist group called Dad Pod began trending.

We talked to the founder of Dad Pod, Zack Duffly, about why he created the group and the kind of role model he wants to be for his own children.

This interview was edited for clarity and length. 

Xion Abiodun: So what started Dad Pod?

Zack Duffly: The framework just all kind of gelled after the first appearance of the wall of moms here in Portland. It was basically me saying, “Now that the national spotlight is here because of federal involvement, wouldn't it be funny if there was a dad crew equivalent?” And like, "What would that look like?" They'd just be kind of useless standing around, like with barbecue and power tools. You know, just kind of a corny, predictable joke.

But basically over the course of that weekend, it went from “Hey, wouldn’t this be cool,” to like staying up and creating that first flyer and using the Twitter account.

XA: What made you want to get involved in protests in the first place?

ZD: There’s always an existing need to fight police brutality and violence in our city, but also everywhere in this country. 

Dad Pod gave me a way to participate physically in the protests. That is to say, a group to go with who all had some affinity [like being dads], and maybe that little bit of extra safety ... but also just the kind of general sense of support.

XA: I noticed your Twitter bio says “putting Dad bods on the line,” and I was wondering what the significance of that message is? 

ZD: I think it is a signal to go beyond calling your representative, or donating to bail funds, or organizing neighborhood marches — all of which are important — but to also physically show up. It’s aimed at bringing people out to protect community members targeted at these protests. Come down and put your body on the line if you can. Use your privilege.

XA: What have your experiences been like at protests with Dad Pod?

ZD: Monday, July 20 was the first night I went out. I went out with a leaf blower — I bought one for the occasion because I don’t normally own something like that. And I showed up at the predetermined spot where other groups have been already meeting on a kind of regular basis. And we [Dad Pod] were able to group up in one part of the crowd. I was arrested later that night by a federal agent in full military gear with a baton.

That was my first night. And I got arrested and was told I couldn't return to the area until my trial between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. So I haven't been back to any physical protests since then.

XA: What do your children think about your participation in Dad Pod?

ZD: They’re proud. I do think they’re a little scared. I have gotten doxed and death threats to my home. They don’t know about the death threats though. They know I was arrested and detained for 14 hours. And I wasn't able to place a phone call to my family until 10 a.m. So for the first several hours of the day, my family wasn't exactly sure where I was or what had happened. And so that was really scary for them.

XA: Would you allow your children to protest?

ZD: I mean, obviously it depends on the person. I would let my kid go to one of these more potentially dangerous ones when they trusted their judgment about important things and risky behavior. So I don't know if there'd be an age. But man, depending on how things are, there may never be a time where I feel comfortable letting them go.

XA: What’s the message you are hoping to pass down to your children by being part of this group?

ZD: It’s important to stand up and fight now for your neighbors and your community members because our freedom is inextricably intertwined with theirs. We are not free until everyone is free. My more specific message to my children is you have to fight white supremacy from killing Black people.

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