CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Members of an anti-abortion group from outside Wyoming have found Jackson “not very welcoming,” a spokesman said Thursday.
The target of the Kansas-based group is a Jackson clinic and Dr. Brent Blue.
The group began demonstrating against the clinic Wednesday and plans to continue through Saturday.
Mark Holick, a pastor of Spirit One Industries based in Wichita, said his group wasn’t surprised at the reception, having been told that Jackson is the most liberal city in Wyoming.
“Overall the response is they don’t like the graphic sign,” Holick said.
The sign is what prompted a counter-protest by a group of Jackson residents. The counterdemonstration included about 10 Jackson-area residents, mostly pro-choice, who held up hand-printed signs that read “My body my choice” and other messages.
Esther Judge said she was taking her 6-year-old son to school Wednesday morning when she saw one of the anti-abortion signs. She said it was about 8 feet by 4 feet and showed a “fetus in pieces.” She said she was able to distract her child and dropped him off at school.
The sign was on Broadway, a popular area of Jackson, she said.
Judge said she believes in education on abortion, but this group’s signs went way too far.
Holick has said the graphic images are necessary to show people what abortion means. He said his group tried to talk to the counterdemonstrators without success.
The minister said he’s been involved in abortion protests nationally for 20 years and has been arrested several times, mostly in Wichita, Kan., for trespassing.
The Jackson police, he said, have not interfered in their demonstrations.
The city did revoke one of their permits for a sound system because of complaints it was too loud, he said.
Jackson Police Chief Todd Smith issued a release early Thursday that said both his department and the Teton County Sheriff’s Office are continuing to respond to questions and to monitor the protest activities.
“The offices recognize the right to free assembly and speech regardless of the issue. While the offices have been fielding calls that the images being displayed by the group are offensive to some, they are constitutionally permissible,” the release said in part.
Lt. Robert William Gilliam of the Jackson Police Department said Thursday the anti-abortion protesters distributed fliers at the middle school early Wednesday morning.
School district officials objected and the police enforced their no-trespassing request Thursday, he said.
On Thursday, the group handed out the fliers on private property around the school, he said.
One of the anti-abortion demonstrators was arrested Thursday for violating the school property no-trespass order after a warning.
“We have had a few skirmishes that we quelled,” Gilliam said.
Blue said the community support he received was overwhelming.
“We have literally gotten hundreds of calls,” he said from Atlanta, Ga., where he was attending a meeting. “People are really offended by their signs and pictures,” he said.
Those pictures are of late-term abortions, which has nothing to do with the termination services offered by the clinic, he said.
Elaine Kuhr, of Jackson, an active member of a local right-to-life organization, said leaders of the out-of-state group called her in January and asked her to participate.
She said she told them it would be a waste of time since Blue has been performing abortions for 25 years.
She said she also knew people in Jackson would be upset by the images the group would show. But the group opted to hold the protest despite her cautions.
“They are a very determined group,” she said.
Kuhr said her approach is to use education regarding fetal development.