Downtown Olympia’s Planned Parenthood health center is no stranger to protests. Weekly, groups stake out the location, asking people not to have abortions.
But on Friday afternoon, the sidewalks outside the building were crowded with people showing their support for Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights.
About 100 people turned out for the protest, holding signs reading, “My body, my choice” and “Safe and legal.” Other signs featured crossed-out drawings of coat hangers, and one depicted a female reproductive system with the slogan “Don’t tread on me.”
Friday evening, that rally at Planned Parenthood and another at the Capitol Campus morphed into an anti-Trump protest march throughout downtown Olympia that blocked train tracks and disrupted traffic.
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About 100 protesters marched to the Port of Olympia, and clogged Jefferson Avenue at State Avenue where they blocked train tracks. By 6:15 p.m., they were blocking the Fourth Avenue Bridge at the first roundabout on the city’s west side.
The protesterswere chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” and “Not my president.”
One sign read: “Electoral College can you hear us?”
A handful of people were covering their faces with bandanas. Some were carrying rainbow flags.
Laura Wohl, an Olympia Police Department spokeswoman, said that as of 6:30 p.m. the protest had been peaceful and no one had been arrested. She said Olympia Police would remain on the streets throughout the protest to ensure people stayed safe while expressing their First Amendment rights.
The demonstrators who showed up to support Planned Parenthood earlier Friday said they did so because of President-elect Donald Trump’s views regarding abortion. Trump said during his campaign that he would nominate Supreme Court justices who would be likely to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling of 1973.
Olympia resident Roxy Peak said she knew there were people in the United States who agreed with Trump — she just didn’t know there were enough to elect him. She said she’s scared of what his presidency might mean, and that’s why she joined the demonstration Friday.
“I knew there were people in the world who hated people like me and my family, I just didn’t know there were that many,” Peak said. “There’s a lot of hate in the world, and I just don’t understand.”
Peak credits Planned Parenthood with helping her out of an abusive relationship and giving her medical care, birth control and someone to talk to when she didn’t have insurance. She said that for her, it’s not just a battle over abortion rights, it’s about access to health care.
Landon Grey of Olympia agreed. He said that support of Planned Parenthood is often characterized as a women’s rights issue, but to him, it’s more than that. It’s a place where queer and transgender people can go for help.
“People with and without uteruses deserve to have care that isn’t regulated by the beliefs of some church,” Grey said. “There’s meant to be a separation between church and state.”
When the Planned Parenthood supporters arrived at noon, a group of anti-abortion demonstrators was just packing up to leave. One of the demonstrators stayed behind.
The man said his name is Jan, but he declined to give a last name. He said he stands in front of the clinic at least once a week in the hope of persuading people not to have abortions, and does so in the name of Jesus Christ.
“We’re trying to help point out to mothers and fathers that killing their child isn’t the only option,” Jan said. “If they feel that they can’t support the child, there’s always adoption.”
Jan said that he remained outside of Planned Parenthood on Friday to try to change supporters’ minds. He said that in his experience, the people who have abortions as young adults regret their decision in later years.
While many of the Planned Parenthood supporters approached Jan to debate the issue, the protest remained peaceful.
Tess Solenberger of Olympia said there was no one organizer for the event. It started as a group of people chatting on Facebook and grew from there. Solenberger said she was thrilled to see so many people come out to support the cause.
“Planned Parenthood has always been a target, and this election has made it an even bigger target,” Solenberger said.
“I try to have compassion, but what they say is hurtful,” she said. “For me, it’s important to be respectful and compassionate. But that doesn’t mean we have to be weak.”
Some of the Planned Parenthood supporters made their way to the Capitol Campus later Friday to join with a rally protesting Trump’s election. About 200 people crowded the steps of the Legislative Building and did call-and-repeat chants. Many waved signs repudiating Trump. Others had placards in support of LGBT rights and minority rights.
“We just want to be seen,” said Mian Carvin, 59, an Olympia artist who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Carvin criticized Trump for sexual assault allegations against him that surfaced on the campaign trail and said he “obviously has no respect for women.”
Ron Heley, 42, and Chelsee Heley, 35, joined the protest with their 1-year-old son in a stroller.
“I wanted to do something to make myself feel better because it’s been a rough week,” Ron Heley said. Trump’s ideas are “dangerous,” he said, and he attacked the Electoral College system as a bad way to pick presidents.
Clinton is likely to win the popular vote, while losing the Electoral College vote.
“I think a protest is a good idea; it was a way to vent for a lot of people,” Ron said.
Chelsee Heley added: “I think to find community also.”
Reporter Walker Orenstein contributed to this report.