On Monday, February 18th, members of Gay Fresno and members of Wesley Celebration at the United Methodist Church participated in a peaceful protest at the Walmart located at Herndon and Ingram here in Fresno. The demonstration was part of an ongoing stand against the signature gathering which supports a ballot initiative (California Marriage Protection Act) which hopes to revise the California state constitution to include “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”
Yesterday I visited the store myself to ask a Walmart supervisor if I could take a look at the book they use to reserve blocks of time for political actions at the store, as I was interested in signing up. I was told the area is booked for the next four weeks, with nothing available until after that. Since it’s not possible to book space in order to circumvent the signature gathering, a silent protest (a group with picket signs) was the next choice.
The protest of approximately 15 people started at the intersection of Herndon and Ingram, well away from the store, while two people stood with signs near the signature gathering. All parties were pleasant to each other and there were no problems, even when it was decided to place an additional 2-3 protestors near the store as well.
Around 2:15pm police arrived at the scene, stating that a complaint had been called in by store management, and that all members of the protest group had to immediately exit the private property area and return to the sidewalk. Jason Scott of Gay Fresno objected to the action, he was told by police an altercation between the two groups had been reported by the store. At that time all members of the protest group were asked to wait by the officer’s vehicle while the matter was looked into.
During questioning from the police, the Walmart representative denied having reported an altercation had occurred, only that he wanted to warn the police that with two opposing groups present, an altercation might be possible. After a few minutes the police decided to drop any enforcement and both groups were allowed to remain.
While the tables at Walmart are in fact being used to gather signatures for the marriage initiative, there is no signage indicating it. The photo below shows the table and signage used. (A member of our group questioned this today and those at the table stated that a sign about the initiative was originally there, but due to complaints from Walmart employees who disagreed with it, they decided to take it down.) The Protect Marriage page is just one page within a group of seven that signatures are being gathered for.
A copy of the initiative is attached. The links below lead to the Protect Marriage website, a summary of the initiative (with completely false statements masquerading as fact in order to sway voters), and a partial list of those endorsing the potential legislation, including officials from Fresno, Clovis and the Central Valley.