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Clark County judge bans protests near Vancouver schools, days after rally put 3 schools in lockdown

Protesters yell at passing cars during an anti-mask demonstration in front of Skyview High School on September 3, 2021in Vancouver, Washington.
Jonathan Levinson
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Protesters yell at passing cars during an anti-mask demonstration in front of Skyview High School on September 3, 2021in Vancouver, Washington.

A Clark County judge has banned protests and rallies near Vancouver School District grounds, days after a Proud Boys-led rally put three schools into lockdown.

Superior Court Judge Suzan Clark ordered, “rallies, protests or gatherings” cannot be held within a mile of school grounds for as long as masks are mandated in schools in the state of Washington.

The order, signed Tuesday, states law enforcement is empowered to “enforce this order should any individual or group of individuals fail to comply.”

District officials said in a statement that the recent anti-mask rally led the district to seek a court order.

“Our district understands and supports free speech and the right for people to be involved in peaceful protests,” Vancouver Schools Superintendent Jeff Snell said in a statement. “However, our first priority is to ensure student and staff safety and an educational environment free of disruption.”

The rally, held on Friday, brought dozens of anti-mask demonstrators and members of the far-right Proud Boys onto the property of Skyview High School. At one point, according to witnesses, members of the Proud Boys attempted to escort a maskless freshman into the building.

The district then ordered Skyview — as well as neighboring Alki Middle School and Chinook Elementary — into lockdown. District officials called the lockdown a safety measure after some demonstrators “attempted to come onto Skyview’s campus.”

Videos posted online also show chants of “U-S-A” near the school entrance, with some in the group wearing black and yellow clothing associated with the Proud Boys. Security guards told OPB that some called female students derogatory names as they left school for the day.

Court records show district and school employees grappled with the rally the entire day.

“In addition to myself, my three-person school administrative team, three central office administrators and district resource officers worked all day and focused attention solely on the rally participates to prevent attendees from the rally from coming into the school building,” Skyview Principal Andy Meyer wrote in a letter asking for the court order.

The Friday rally was not the first. The unmasked freshman’s mother Megan Gabriel — who is named in the court order — organized an “impromptu” rally of 35 people near the school the day prior.

Gabriel told OPB after the rally that masks trigger panic attacks for her daughter. She said her daughter unsuccessfully sought a medical exemption to the mandate. District officials are prohibited by privacy laws from commenting on individual students.

Gabriel tried to roust yet another rally this week, according to court documents. She posted to Facebook calling Washington’s mask mandate, “irrational, illegal, unconstitutional and unscientific.” She also hurled insults at school officials, which Meyer called “untrue and malicious.”

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Troy Brynelson