Erik Rohde from Whidbey Island, a member of the Washington Three Percenters with other protesters, trades barbs with counter protesters over a buffer zone created by the Port Townsend police to control possible violence between the two factions during a rally at Pope Marine Park in Port Townsend on Saturday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Erik Rohde from Whidbey Island, a member of the Washington Three Percenters with other protesters, trades barbs with counter protesters over a buffer zone created by the Port Townsend police to control possible violence between the two factions during a rally at Pope Marine Park in Port Townsend on Saturday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Lots of shouting, but no violence at Port Townsend protest

With large police presence, clash of words, not fists

PORT TOWNSEND — With a heavy police presence, including Washington State Patrol troopers, and crowd barriers in place, a demonstration in downtown Port Townsend on Saturday featured lots of shouting between protest groups, but no violence.

A contingent of Three Percenters and others — about three dozen — who billed the rally as a protest to stand up for women’s rights, were separated from counter-protesters who were supporting transgender rights, with barricades and a 20-foot buffer zone between them at Pope Marine Park.

Overall, about 200 people attended.

The rally was sparked by the Olympic Peninsula YMCA banning a woman from the Mountain View pool after she confronted a transgender employee of the Y in the women’s locker room. The banning of Julie Jaman, 80, has gained international attention.

The name on the permit was that of Robert Zerfing, founder of Common Sense Conservative — who lives in Portland, Ore., according to his LinkedIn profile. Posters calling for the protest referred to men in women’s locker rooms; they do not mention transgender people.

The protesters were led by Erik Rohde of Whidbey Island, who identified himself as a member of the Washington Three Percenters, a group that describes itself as a constitutionalist community support and preparedness organization.

In 2021, the government of Canada listed the Three Percenters as a terrorist organization for its members’ involvement in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Three Percenters as an extremist group. The Washington State Three Percenter webpage states it is not a part of any larger organization.

Rohde told the PDN that he and others were at Saturday’s protest because they believe transgender women — who he referred to as men — should not be allowed in women’s locker rooms.

Rohde also cited President Joe Biden’s recent speech condemning “MAGA Republicans” as additional motivation behind the demonstration.

“The fact that Joe Biden went on the news the other day and said basically that any diehard conservative is an enemy of the state, these MAGA people are extremists and that they need to be dealt with,” Rohde said.

“So what I’m going to do is recruit a bunch of patriots and a bunch of Three Percenters, a bunch of Proud Boys, a bunch of people who will stand for the Constitution,” he continued.

Jaman, who has told of the confrontation on national television, said Thursday that she was not affiliated with Saturday’s protest.

She spoke at an Aug. 15 protest, conducted while the Port Townsend City Council approved a proclamation welcoming transgender people to the city.

Video of Jaman and her supporters — mostly older women — in scuffles with pro-trans demonstrators have led to criticism of the police response during that protest.

As at the Aug. 15 protest, the number of people supporting transgender people outnumbered the opposition on Saturday, and both groups grew smaller as the day wore on.

Toward the end of the protest, counter-protesters started playing music and dancing, including a dance to the Village People’s “YMCA.” At least one of the Three Percenters joined in the dancing for a while.

“I’m mostly just happy there are so few of them,” said Jennifer Mead, a 24-year-old Jefferson County resident wearing a rainbow-colored dress.

“We’ve outnumbered them at least three to one all day. I’m glad that I can at least see that they’re a real minority in our community.”

On Friday, Port Townsend police said they had requested additional support from the Washington State Patrol for the demonstration after scuffles had broken out between protest groups at the Aug. 15 protest.

Protesters — many of them wearing the logo of the Three Percenters militia group — were led into a cordoned-off area of Pope Marine Park on Saturday and kept mostly separate from others.

Port Townsend Police Chief Thomas Olson previously told Peninsula Daily News the department had insufficient time to prepare for the Aug. 15 protest.

On Saturday, police were better prepared.

Much of Pope Marine Park was blocked off with metal crowd barriers, with groups cordoned off from one another with space in between them.

Protesters from both groups for the most part remained on their respective sides and shouted at one another across a space of about 20 feet.

Standing off to the side were several dozen State Patrol Rapid Deployment Force officers outfitted in tactical gear.

Jefferson County Sheriff deputies primarily assisted with traffic control.

At the end of the protest, Rohde and a handful of others were escorted out of the park by law enforcement.

________

Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at psegall@soundpublishing.com.

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