Roughly a dozen flag carrying protesters took to the streets of Key Center Jan. 8, holding signs and waving at passersby. They gathered to protest the possibility that Key Peninsula Civic Center Association might require proof of vaccination for entry to events.
“If the civic center starts doing this segregation and discrimination stuff, I think it’s just wrong,” said protester John Day, pastor of Longbranch Community Church.
Citing an internal KPCCA board survey forwarded to him from a friend, Day said, “They sent out a survey too and one of the questions was, ‘Are you willing to serve as a volunteer to turn even unvaccinated family and friends away? Yes or no?’ ”
“I’m done. People have to stand up and speak out,” he said. “It’s baloney. It’s not following the science. If it were, they would be talking about natural immunity and all sorts of other stuff.”
While the protest was modest in size, numerous posts on social media, combined with angry phone calls, ensured record attendance at the next KPCCA board meeting Jan. 13, held via Zoom.
In his first meeting as president of the KPCCA, Chuck Davis welcomed the board and more than 50 guests. Reading from a statement, he acknowledged that measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 have divided the community.
“Throughout the pandemic, the civic center has followed all state and county mandates, including temporary public health measures like requiring that masks be worn indoors,” he said. “We also strive to respond to all requests from the community and then to find solutions that honor the mission of our organization.”
The discussion was allotted 30 minutes. Participants who signed up were given two minutes to speak.
Many people with children spoke of how much they valued the civic center and enjoyed the many family events and activities, particularly Skate Night, and felt it was important to keep that open without vaccine mandates for entry.
Jeff Wyman said he and his wife had been very active with the civic center, but their kids are older now, so they come less often. But his son continues to enjoy Skate Night.
“If there is a vaccination mandate in place we will simply cease going there,” Wyman said. “Frankly, I think it would be a little bit fun to ignore your mandate and just go ahead and walk on in because I guarantee you, I am bigger than anybody in this room and you won’t stop me. But I’m not going to be that guy.”
Michelle Hambly of Lakebay spoke through tears as she said, “I will not vaccinate my son because I won’t put that poison in him. He volunteers on Fridays and now Sundays. It’s his only social activity. He used all his Christmas money to get skates.”
“Children are at low risk,” she said. “I am immunocompromised on chemo. It is not their responsibility to keep me safe. We need to understand there is getting to be not a lot of places for the unvaccinated.”
Caleb Lystad of Lakebay said his family has enjoyed the civic center for years, especially Skate Night. They would like to ensure that space remains open to the public.
“The civic center needs to be kept a neutral place and not allow the sort of clear politics that are going on in King County and other parts of the state and the country to infect us here in our own little backyard.” he said. “We ask that the board take these comments into consideration along with everyone else … and do the right thing for the community and remain open for and in service of the community.”
Catrina Bliss said she and her spouse, a family practitioner in Bremerton for 10 years, along with their two children ages 11 and 7 are all happily vaccinated.
Her daughter has had pneumonia many times. She said she attended the meeting to hear what people would say because they are having a hard time joining indoor events “like these wonderful skate nights” because nobody wants to mask or vaccinate.
Following public comment, Davis said nothing new had changed in civic center policies during the pandemic.
Leading up to the canceled New Year’s Eve party, Davis said several people asked if they had a vaccine mandate in place for the event.
“I told them we didn’t,” Davis said. “Everyone can wear a mask but not everyone could get the vaccine.”
Davis said he brought those concerns to the executive committee, doing his due diligence as president, and after some discussion “determined it was too large an issue to tackle, just the eight or nine of us that are in that committee.” >
“We determined it was best to take it to the board for full discussion,” he said. “That was supposed to be part of the agenda for tonight.”
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