Islanders protest against a lack of protests | The Gerbil

(Editor’s note: This appeared in the April 1 special edition of The Journal)

By Dayley Hay


It had been five days, 14 hours and 12 minutes since San Juan Island’s last protest, and islanders weren’t backing down.

“We need to join together to combat this stagnation. There are ideas and behaviors we can unite against and then paint signs to illustrate that,” said organizer Stephanie Liggins, holding a sign that read the same thing.

On March 23, 18 islanders gathered at the San Juan County Courthouse to protest the week’s lack of protests. Protesters included noncommittal nonprofit volunteers, regular posters on the Friday Harbor Rant and Rave Facebook group, and a strong coalition of anyone who could take an extended lunch break, from noon to 2 p.m. last Thursday.

“This will look great on my college application,” read one sign.

To ignite additional protests, some suggested attending public meetings sleep deprived to ensure a heightened sensitivity about agenda items. Others listed grievances: How would the scheduled dismissal of a temporary Public Works employee affect the livelihood of his cat? Why would a 100-year-old tree be torn down to clear the airport’s runway, when planes could be rerouted?

“My social identity group has been systematically mistreated by the island’s educational institution,” projected Holly McAdams, San Juan Island Elementary second grader. “Students in my grade can’t wear hats to school, but third graders can?”

The two-hour rally was preceded by three weeks of sign making parties, which depleted the island’s stock of posters, markers and paint. One protester’s “rant” about the lack of protest sign materials only received two comments on Facebook.

“It’s almost as if no one cares if we ever protested agai,” read her nearly finished sign.

Liggins led the chant “What do we want? Protests! When do we want them? Now!” on the group’s 400-foot march to Vic’s around 1 p.m., so as not to miss the lunch specials. When they learned the restaurant was out of fries, the protest was extended for another hour and six more joined.