When Operation Save America came to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 2011, they were greeted with outrage, anger, and threats of arrest. The anti-choice group’s decision to haunt the town square during Elk Fest, a local Boy Scout festival and the biggest event of the year for the city, turned into a whirl-wind of publicity for the organization, which was first forced off the square because of their graphic posters and photos, then later won a lawsuit claiming their first amendment rights were denied.
Returning to Jackson Hole, a liberal, wealthy area of the state that houses the only open abortion provider in Wyoming, Operation Save America’s “States of Refuge” tour believe they could once more draw the attention and media that they received in 2012. But they were wrong.
Jackson Hole United, a group of both pro-choice and anti-choice residents determined to ensure that this year’s interaction between Operation Save America and the citizens of Jackson Hole remained peaceful and calm, organized to act as Human Detours, setting themselves up around town with signs informing motorists and pedestrians when they were about to come upon the group and their gory photos and offer alternative routes to avoid them.
The plan was a success. On Wednesday, only three citations were given out — one for reckless driving and two others for destruction of property. By Thursday, Jackson Hole United received permission from the city council to put their own banners and lawn signs up around town urging “civility, compassion, and love.”
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And in the biggest success, Operation Save America announced it would pull their banners and posters from the square on the day of Elk Fest, allowing the fundraising event to go on without incident, although they did pass materials out to those who attended. They replaced their banners the following day to finish off their protest.
Still, the town didn’t remain completely unscathed by the days of protest. Businesses around town square, where banners were displayed and often protesters spoke via megaphone announced a slump in sales that owners attributed to the anti-choice activists.
But the weekend was a definite success, especially for Jackson Hole United’s mission to keep the town true to its own sense of community, and encouraging civility, compassion, and love. As Jackson Hole United founder Mary Cobb Erickson told the group in their facebook page, “It really isn’t about changing their [Operation Save America’s] hearts, this has been about changing ours.”