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Budget-cuts demonstration draws a crowd in Clinton

Nancy Skullerud, Elaine Woods and Helmi Kelstrom rally for union rights and protest against anti-union legislation. Skullerud, a Coupeville resident, is a retired Shoreline School District teacher who taught for 34 years. Woods, of Freeland, was out to  support union rights because “It raises all boats.”  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Nancy Skullerud, Elaine Woods and Helmi Kelstrom rally for union rights and protest against anti-union legislation. Skullerud, a Coupeville resident, is a retired Shoreline School District teacher who taught for 34 years. Woods, of Freeland, was out to support union rights because “It raises all boats.”
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

There was a crowd of many ages, signs of protest, four police cars — and, best of all, no rain.

Nearly 50 people gathered at the entrance to the Clinton Ferry Terminal on Tuesday afternoon in support of unions and in protest of proposed state and federal budget cuts.

“It was pouring rain five minutes before we started, then the rain stopped and didn’t start again until we were done,” said Carolyn Tamler of Greenbank, organizer of the event. “I consider that a miracle.”

She said the local demonstration was in support of a nationwide effort called “Defend the Dream,” organized by MoveOn.org. The event was to combat proposed budget cuts the group says would eliminate 700,000 jobs — 15,000 in Washington state alone.

Tamler said 275 rallies were held nationwide on the same day, and attracted more than 20,000 participants.

“If they eliminate those jobs, there’ll be a ripple effect,” she said. “It’s crazy. Now’s not the time to eliminate jobs.”

Tamler said the local demonstrators from throughout Whidbey Island and as far away as Bellingham peacefully lined the walkway just outside the ferry terminal for two hours, beginning at 3:45 p.m.

She said they talked among themselves and waved signs in support of unions and responsible government spending.

A couple of the signs read, “We stand with unions,” and “Tax the rich.”

“Most of the signs were wrapped in plastic,” she added. “We expected that rain would be coming down.”

The South End has been deluged the past few days. More than six inches of rain have fallen already this year, according to the website Whidbey Island Weather.

The four police cars showed up about the same time as Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, who Tamler said was there to show her support.

Officials said they were responding to a 911 call from an unidentified man who said someone involved in the demonstration grabbed his arm. By the time officers arrived, the man had left the area, Island County Sheriff’s Detective Ed Wallace said.

“There was nothing going on that caused an issue,” Wallace said. “The guy didn’t stick around.”

“Nobody touched anybody,” Tamler said. “It was really silly. It was a very peaceful group of people.”

“We think it was just somebody who didn’t agree with us,” she added.

During the demonstration, participants also received permission from ferry officials to collect signatures from people in the holding lanes for a letter protesting proposed budget cuts.

Tamler spent Thursday faxing them to Whidbey’s Congressional and Legislative delegations.

“They were happy to see us,” she said of ferry workers, many of whom are union members.

Tamler said the local demonstrators ranged from people in their 30s to at least one in her 80s.

“My objective was to bring some awareness to the Washington state budget and what’s going on at the local end,” said the youngest participant, Corey Graves, 30, of Langley. “I’d like to see more younger people attending these types of events.”

“The most important thing is getting out and having your voice heard,” he added.

“I made a commitment to do it and was happy to do it,” said Kathy Hornsby, 86, of Freeland. “It was very positive.”

“I’m not really an activist,” Hornsby added, “but I like to support something I believe in.”

 

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