When Mary Erickson, assistant priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church, learned of a confrontational anti-abortion group that would be demonstrating in Jackson Hole during Elk Fest she started sending out emails and making phone calls. Before long, the group Jackson Hole United, comprised of both pro-life and pro-choice local residents, was formed. Its mission: to not engage the protesters while practicing civility, compassion and love. On Monday, members of Jackson Hole United were able to test their tactics before Elk Fest with another group of anti-abortion protesters who came armed with large graphic signs of: you guessed it, baby fetuses. So how did Jackson Hole United fare?
“People stayed away from them as much as they could,” Erickson said, “and people who were forced to come in contact with them because they came into their stores really just held it together and didn’t engage, and didn’t get angry. I think the protesters didn’t quite know what to do.”
To help motorists avoid the barrage of protesters and obscene signage, Jackson Hole United members were posted on Broadway, a block away from the anti-abortion demonstrators with detour signs alerting motorists to “Turn here to avoid protesters.” It’s unclear how long these protesters will be in town but Jackson Hole United is already prepared for the next batch of “visitors” slated to arrive for Elk Fest. “What we have decided to do–the Boy Scouts have been very involved in this whole process–is have a big celebration and it is the 100th anniversary of the Elk Refuge,” Erickson explained, “so we’re going to have a big birthday party with huge signs. We want as many people to come down as possible to pack the place with happiness and celebration.” Erickson said Jackson Hole United has helped locals prepare for, and cope with protesters’ in-your-face tactics. – Robyn Vincent