Yesterday evening, PubliCola reported that NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Planned Parenthood had been barred from participating in West Seattle Summerfest because of concerns by the fest’s organizers, the West Seattle Junction Association, that protests by anti-choice groups included graphic material that was inappropriate for the annual family gathering at the intersection of California Ave. SW and W. Alaska St. in West Seattle July 9-11.
Association director Susan Melrose confirmed yesterday that NARAL, along with other advocacy and religious groups, will not be allowed to have a table at the fest this year.
PubliCola followed up with Melrose today after noticing that several advocacy and religious groups—including the 34th District Democrats, Sustainable West Seattle, and Calvary Chapel West Seattle—will still have tables at the festival.
Surprisingly, Melrose now denies ever telling PubliCola or NARAL that advocacy and religious groups were banned from the festival. Instead, contradicting what she confirmed to PubliCola yesterday, Melrose now says the WSJA decided to specifically bar groups dealing with abortion.
"I didn’t make the statement that all advocacy and religious groups were not allowed to participate,” Melrose says. “We decided not to have the issue of abortion be a topic at the booths at the festival.”
“When you’re a community organization and throwing a community festival, it’s important to be fair to all parties,” Melrose says. “We don’t think it’s fair that one side of the issue should be ignored. ... We’re totally apolitical, we can’t get involved with favoritism on either side. ”
However, Lauren Simonds, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, confirmed that Melrose told her explicitly that no advocacy or religious groups would be allowed at this year's festival.
"Her statement was, 'We're just having community nonprofits, not issue nonprofits or religious organizations," Simonds says. "That's what she said. I wrote it down."
Simonds says NARAL volunteers will still be at the fest, handing out postcards to support state legislation that would bar anti-choice "crisis pregnancy centers" from providing misleading information about the services they offer, which are typically limited to pregnancy tests and adoption referrals. "We will be collecting signatures on postcards, so that when the session starts we can show our elected officials that the pro-choice majority of our state does not agree with the deceptive practices of these fake clinics," Simonds says.
Simonds says the Summerfest is the first festival to bar NARAL from participating. NARAL has tables or volunteers at more than a dozen festivals and farmers' markets statewide, including the Fremont Fair, Redmond Derby Days, the University District Street Fair, and Redmond River Days.