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While western Washington may be known as a politically progressive stronghold, opponents of Planned Parenthood’s mission exist everywhere. In Everett, Washington, protest activity at the Planned Parenthood health center has reached a fever pitch. 
 
With 55 significant security incidents as of November 2021, Everett was one of the most targeted health centers in the PPGNHAIK affiliate this past year. For physical encounters, it was second to Honolulu, Hawai‘i and slightly above Bloomington, Indiana.  
 
Everett, Washington is the seventh largest city in Washington state and only 25 miles north of Seattle. It is characteristically more conservative than other areas of greater Seattle, in part due to a naval base and an industrial labor foundation including Boeing. 
 
“We have definitely seen an uptick in protest activity. Ever since what happened in Texas, it’s gone up,” said Brita Lund, Everett Health Center Manager, referring to the recent developments that have effectively ended most abortion access for patients in Texas. 
 
“Sometimes I open the door [to the health center] and all I can hear is screaming,” she said. 
 
“On Wednesdays [when most of the protest activity occurs], we have to be careful where we room patients. The exam room at the front of the building gets so much noise you can’t hear a conversation between patient and provider. We don’t use that room on Wednesdays,” she explained. 
 
The busiest days for protests are on Wednesdays, with some Saturdays being active too as they coincide with services at some nearby churches. 
 
In order to protect patients’ privacy and safety, Lund said she sometimes lets patients out the side door. 
 
“After some procedures, patients may be in a vulnerable state of mind, and groggy,” Lund said. “We have our patients communicate with their ride that they will be coming out the side door, which goes right into the parking lot.” 
 
I know that we are doing this to help the patient, but sometimes it is frustrating. It feels like we are sneaking, and that’s not a good feeling,” said Lund. 
 
During heavy Wednesday protest activity, police will set up barricades on the street in front of our health center, which creates a barrier from anti-abortion protesters, but also confuses patients wanting to get in, and the health center’s general atmosphere. 
 
As health center manager, Lund said she has regular communication with police about protesters.  

They listen when I go out to talk to them. [One sergeant has] been assigned to us as the go-to person to track what's going here, which helps with follow-up and continuity. I have spoken to him multiple times, he will check in several times a week, which is very helpful. He has also left his card with us to give to any patient or anyone who comes into the health center feeling threatened or harassed,” she explained. 

Lund clarified that it is much more effective when supporters choose to make a complaint directly to the police themselves. She said it carries more weight with the police when it comes directly from the person being harassed, versus a health center manager reporting an occurrence. 
 
Planned Parenthood also has an internal security department that interacts with staff, police, and protesters. On days with a lot of loud protesters, for example, the health center also deploys a security guard and works with George Collins, Security and Safety Director, to ensure all staff and volunteers are trained on how to de-escalate and prioritize safety. 
 
In addition to watching security cameras and communicating with police, the Planned Parenthood security guard uses a big umbrella to walk patients in and out so that they are physically shielded from the shouting protestors. Lund reported that the center even got a 5-star Yelp review noting the courtesy of having the security guard escort them with the umbrella. 
 
Additionally, Leona Bruns, who works the front desk, escorts patients when our security guard is not present.  

She is a very sweet person who puts patients at ease and always asks permission,” Lund said. 
 
Lund added that dealing with protests has built up resilience among all staff. “We do a good job at redirecting the patients to focus on their care, which is the reason they came, while validating their experience with the protesters.” 
 
Planned Parenthood supporters usually come out in force to counter the anti-abortion protesters. They often attempt to create human shields between anti-abortion protesters and patients entering the clinic. Lund said she and staff appreciate their intents and political support, while adding that they do add to the noise level, and that there have been incidents in which their support did not effectively help. 
 
PPGNHAIK Safety and Security Director George Collins affirmed Planned Parenthood’s official policy is one of non-engagement. “The most effective way to discourage them is to ignore them completely.”   
 
Security Manager Linda Simpson agreed with Collins’ statement: “It most bothers them when we act as though they do not exist and totally ignore their actions and behavior.”   
 
To support health centers like Everett’s security, staff and volunteers as they weather heavy protest activity, please consider a gift.

Tags: protest