Locals respond to protest
By Emma Breysse, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: May 8, 2012
A Wisconsin anti-abortion group’s foray in Jackson was countered by members of Jackson Hole United, who tried to steer people away from controversial abortion images.
Missionaries To the Pre-Born lined Broadway for much of the day, eliciting honked horns and a few shouted obscenities from passing motorists, along with a welter of complaints. Through the early afternoon, there were no incidents requiring police intervention, Sgt. Cole Nethercott of the Jackson Police Department said.
The group waved signs and drove trailers featuring images of aborted fetuses as part of an effort targeting Dr. Brent Blue, who the group claims is the only abortion provider in Wyoming.
Members of the newly formed Jackson Hole United stationed themselves a block or so on either side of the protests with signs warning people to turn off Broadway if they wanted to avoid the protests and its content.
Residents formed Jackson Hole United earlier this month to respond to similar protests planned for ElkFest weekend by Operation Save America, which demon-strated in Jackson last year.
Jackson Hole United calls itself a bipartisan group espousing “civility, compassion, love” rather than violent or polarizing confrontations. Monday’s anti-abortion protest sparked members’ first foray into the public arena. Along with the signs warning drivers they were approaching the protest ground, Jackson Hole United passed out posters to businesses near Blue’s office, which hung in windows.
At Blue’s office, protests resulted in community support for the doctor, he said.
“We’ve had no disruptions,” he said. “Our patients have been very supportive, sending cookies and cakes and with phone calls and things like that.”
Protest spokesman Jim Soderna said the group’s impressions of Jackson and its police were “favorable.”
“We’re working with them, and they’re working with us,” he said. “We can get our message out, and the people here can ignore us if they want to.”
Though the anti-abortion group’s original itinerary had it in Jackson for two days, Soderna said scheduling issues caused it to cancel today’s protests.
Throughout Missionaries’ protest, two officers were parked in patrol cars on both sides of Broadway to watch for trouble. Nethercott, in an unmarked car, also watched from a short distance away. He said police planned to employ a similar strategy when Operation Save America visits later this month.
Nethercott expected the police re-sponse to Operation Save America’s visit will require more officers, because the group plans to set up shop in several locations. He hoped that would be the only difference.
“We’re here to stop small fires from becoming bigger fires,” he said. “That’s our strategy today, and it will be our strategy later in the month.”