Spokane City Council votes to quiet protests outside healthcare facilities
SPOKANE, Wash. — Demonstrators outside Spokane healthcare facilities (including Planned Parenthood) will have to keep the noise down.
Spokane City Council members approved an ordinance by a 6-1 vote Monday night to protect patients seeking healthcare from being disrupted or intimidated by loud protests.
While the ordinance applies to demonstrations outside all healthcare facilities in Spokane, pastor Ken Peters, who holds a church service outside Spokane’s Planned Parenthood clinic each month, feels the city is trying to silence his Christian voice. He’s referred to the clinic on Indiana Avenue as “the gates of hell” and a “murder mill.”
“We show up, we worship, we pray, we give and we preach,” Peters told council members ahead of the vote. “We do no harass women and if we ever saw it we would put an end to it immediately.”
It was standing room only at Monday night’s council meeting as members of the Church at Planned Parenthood filled seats along with pro-choice activists wearing pink in support of Planned Parenthood.
Both sides have come face-to-face in the last several weeks leading up to the vote. Monday’s meeting was especially tense.
“Sooner or later, with both groups, somebody is going to get hurt,” Councilwoman Karen Stratton said.
Council members heard hours of testimony before the vote. Pastor Greg Locke, who has more than 1.5 million followers on Facebook, flew all the way from Tennessee to testify against the ordinance.
“The Church at Planned Parenthood is a righteous organization. It is not going to go away,” Locke said. “At the end of the day, you are going to have to invest in a lot of handcuffs — these people are willing to go to jail.”
Under the ordinance, a person intentionally making noise that can be heard within a healthcare facility could be ordered by law enforcement to quiet down. If that person refuses, they could face a $500 fine and up to 24-hours in jail for a first conviction. A second conviction within one calendar year is a gross misdemeanor and carries a $750 fine and 7 days in jail. For a third conviction, the fine jumps to $1,000 and 30 days in jail.
“People have to right to access healthcare free from harassment, free from noise,” said Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, who sponsored the ordinance. “You still have the right to protest, you don’t have the right to prevent someone else from exercising their right.”
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