UPDATE | Port Townsend protest draws around 250, remains peaceful

Posted 9/8/22

The protest at Port Townsend’s Pope Marine Park Saturday afternoon ended with no violence.

Members of the right-wing militia group Washington State Three Percenters and other similar …

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UPDATE | Port Townsend protest draws around 250, remains peaceful

Posted

The protest at Port Townsend’s Pope Marine Park Saturday afternoon ended with no violence.

Members of the right-wing militia group Washington State Three Percenters and other similar organizations attended the event to protest Julie Jaman’s banishment from Mountain View Pool for harassing a transgender woman in a locker room back in July.

Around 250 or so people were at the event, with the majority of attendees supporting trans rights.

There were fears of violence due to rumors of the potential attendance of the Proud Boys — an all-male, alt-right hate group — at the event, but a high police presence and steel barriers separating the groups kept tensions from boiling over.

The protest was planned by Robert Zerfing of Vancouver, Washington in opposition to Jaman being banned from the pool. Jaman became a staple on conservative media after she shared her story with the claim of being in support of women’s rights.

Thirty or so protesters were met Saturday by roughly 200 counter-protesters standing in support of the local trans community.

The protest kicked off after Erik Rohde, a member of the Washington State Three Percenters and a Whidbey Island resident, entered Pope Marine Park from Water Street and began antagonizing counter protesters.

The Washington State Three Percenters are a right-wing splinter faction of the national Three Percenters organization. The Washington-based militia organization describes themselves as a community support and preparedness organization, according to their website.

Rohde flashed a white power sign (otherwise known as the “OK” hand gesture) toward people before yelling through a megaphone and marching to Pope Marine Park.

Rohde and around 20 others were escorted into a barricaded-off section of the park and began verbally engaging with counter protesters from their side of the barricade.

The protesters showed up to support Jaman, though Jaman had disavowed the event, saying “I do not endorse or support Mr. Zerfing’s planned event in any way,” in an earlier press release.

The controversy in Port Townsend over transgender women in locker rooms started in July, after Jaman encountered a YMCA employee at Mountain View Pool, and began yelling at the young adult, who is a trans woman, while the worker was chaperoning two children from a summer camp while they used the restroom.

According to police reports and the Olympic Peninsula YMCA, Jaman asked the employee if she had a penis and harassed her for being in the women’s restroom.YMCA officials said the employee had done nothing wrong and was with the youngsters as part of the YMCA’s “rule of three” policy, which prohibits minors from being alone with staff members.

YMCA officials have said that Jaman had a history of breaking the organization’s code of conduct, and that bias, hatred, and discrimination are not tolerated by the Y.

She was subsequently banned from the facility.

Jaman has denied having prior problems with the YMCA or breaking their code of conduct. She has since characterized her outburst as being centered on privacy of women using facilities at the Y, while officials with the nonprofit have noted that all-gender access is required by state law, but separate and private restroom and changing facilities are also available at the pool.

For the first 30 minutes or so of the protest, Rohde, Zerfing, and other protesters attempted to debate with the counter protesters.

Few counter protesters engaged with the group, with both sides arguing about transgender people, President Biden, or aiming insults at each other.

Around two-thirds of the counter protesters left the park after an hour of bickering on both sides.

An hour or so into the event, the counter protesters began dancing and singing to Village People’s hit song “Y.M.C.A” while the protesters watched.

Eventually, the majority of counter protesters left and the protesters were escorted away by law enforcement.

No violence or assault was observed from either side due to the steel barricades placed between the two groups, which included a 20-foot buffer zone and a high police presence at the event.

Law enforcement from the Port Townsend Police Department, Washington State Patrol, and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office were present.

An estimated total of 30 to 40 members of law enforcement were watching over the protest or directing traffic in the area.

Port Townsend Police Chief Thomas Olson spoke to The Leader about plans for keeping the peace on Saturday prior to the event.

“I reached out to them and talked to them … and we discussed a safety plan based on what they were planning for the event,” Olson said of his conversation with Zerfing and other protest organizers. “I can assure we will be staffed and prepared for any type of situation that would occur.”

Nobody was arrested on either side at the protest.

Olson noted the steel barricades helped prevent things from getting out of hand.

“The biggest way to keep [physical violence] from happening is separating the groups so they’re not intermingling, keeping them separated to the best of our ability,” he said.

Another preventative measure used by law enforcement was preventing attendees from bringing any weapons or items that could be used as weapons.

Weapons like knives, pepper spray, batons, and tactical gear were banned from the park, as well as nontraditional weapons like laser pointers, skateboards, noise makers, or umbrellas.

 

 

 

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