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Call to relocate Everett Planned Parenthood opponents can’t be done

Michael Whitney photo

Every Wednesday, people both against and for Planned Parenthood on 32nd Street near Colby Avenue come out. This photo is from across the street at the tail end of activities Wednesday, Feb. 24 after many people had gone home.

EVERETT — The city says it cannot establish a buffer zone to move anti-abortion protestors away from Planned Parenthood’s premises, an idea which was recently asked of the City Council, because it goes against court rulings on free speech.
Those who support a buffer say beckoning to patients within earshot of the front door is harassment.
Every Wednesday, people hold signs along the sidewalk discussing murder, Jesus Christ and to consider adoption. The most outspoken yell to patients, telling them they are entering a clinic that kills babies, from the Biblical view that life starts at conception.
So every Wednesday, a handful of independent Planned Parenthood supporters line the driveway to block protestors from view and set an informal shield. Other supporters mix with the crowd to show allegiance.
Word got out that Wednesday is “procedure day,” when women can schedule to have pregnancies terminated.
Certain Saturdays bring an even bigger crowd because a group of churches convene a worship service half a block away.
Police officers stand by in vehicles in case they need to intervene.
A resident recently asked the City Council for a 75-foot buffer, and said it can be constitutionally done.
It wouldn’t be a line, though, city attorney David Hall clarified. The courts created a way to create no-contact bubbles around patients within a certain distance to a health care facility, where they cannot be handed literature or blocked from entry, Hall said.
However, the First Amendment bars cities from keeping people behind do-not-cross lines in public spaces. “The courts have said you can’t trade free speech for ease of enforcement,” Hall said.
On Wednesdays, there are flare-ups and friction among the most outspoken.
Josiah, from Arlington, pleaded with a woman and her baby walking into Planned Parenthood to talk with them about the clinic not being what’s best for her child, which she’d heard enough.
“It’s a woman’s choice! You’re not a woman! Be a woman and you can make the decision, you’re a (expletive) man!” she screamed during the exchange.
She addressed the pestering with one of the policemen stationed nearby. The secondhand news is that the officer didn’t take any action because she got care. Supporters gasped.

VIEWER WARNING: Profanities, including homophobic slur

Eyewitness video

Anti-abortion activists often attempt to start conversations with people entering the Planned Parenthood in Everett, and these conversations are often unwanted. This is personal video of a conflict which a Tribune reporter also was present for. Viewer warning: Foul language

Janean Desmarais, who petitioned the council for the buffer, said police evaluate whether to step in from their own lenses. Instituting a 75-foot rule would instead give a clear, standard boundary, Desmarais said.
She said in a statement in written response to the city’s stance: “While I am not surprised at the decision that the City passed down, we have ultimately gained more public awareness and engagement in highlighting the growing extremism problem within our community. My hope is that, as a society, we will eventually force a stop in using the First Amendment as a guise to allow, and even promote, violent speech mainly directed at women trying to obtain their constitutional right to healthcare. Not just in Everett, but across the country.”
Most sign-wavers didn’t see validity to being moved away from their spot.
“It’s a public sidewalk,” said Ian, who lives in Everett and, like all others, would not give a reporter his last name.
Their presence has been able to prompt conversations about fetuses and the Biblical teaching that life starts at conception, Ian and others said.  
“If we don’t put a value on children,” referring to fetuses in the womb, “how do we not discriminate against a 98-year-old?” Ian said. “These guys are deciding the 3-month-old (fetus) doesn’t have value.”
Nobody in Wednesday’s crowd said their church had encouraged them to come.
Josiah said he was here on conviction. “I’m here to stand against the murder of innocent children.”
There were about a half-dozen patient supporters and one-dozen anti-abortion protestors last week. This is the usual crowd size, from what people told the Tribune.
“They are assuming the reasons people come (to the clinic),” said Shola Bolonduro, a patient supporter from Everett.
The clinic provides women prenatal care, child care, sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing and more, but pregnancy terminations are the flashpoint.
The Planned Parenthood supporters at the site — the ones spending their time to keep patients from being harassed — openly express a dim view of the anti-abortion protestors, while the most vocal anti-abortion protestors have a beef with the organization itself.
“They’re coming at it from their own evangelical viewpoint,” said Bolonduro.
Bolonduro said it is offensive that anti-abortion protestors disregard the science behind the embryo.
Not every person was there on religious grounds.
Jean, from Everett, said she sign-waves outside the Planned Parenthood because she wants women to consider their options without feeling pressured to abort. She decided against abortion herself, and said she’s grateful she didn’t because of her son and grandchildren.
Some come strictly based on religious opposition to abortion.
Jenna’s sign exclaimed “Babies are Murdered Here.”
“The Bible says to speak out for those who don’t have a voice,” Jenna said. “These babies don’t have a voice. If they had mercy, (people) could adopt them.”

Eyewitness video

Anti-abortion activists go to the Planned Parenthood in Everett on Wednesdays trying to dissuade patients from entering. Others who support Planned Parenthood attempt to override it with voice and by blocking views with umbrellas. This is a video of the scene.

Planned Parenthood supporter Dave Mascarenas of Everett said people holding signs is OK, but people yelling at people is the problem.
“To face a gauntlet of people calling you a murderer, you don’t want that crap,” Mascarenas said.
Desmarais described it as “a disgusting display of behavior. Nobody should have to go through that to go to their own doctor appointment.”
Everett has adopted a state statue that bans protestors from impeding access to any health care facility. The rule also prohibits creating such a great nuisance that it interrupts activities inside.
Supporters noted that people have impersonated Planned Parenthood staff to try to start conversations about abortion and hand out anti-abortion literature to drivers that stop while entering the clinic parking lot.
The anti-abortion activists each declined to give their last name. Ian, the Everett man, told a reporter it’s because people might try to get them in trouble with their employers. He said it happened to him. He also warned the crowd not to give the press their last names.



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