The Washington Post

Protester in tree at inauguration: Too close for comfort for Planned Parenthood official

Rives Miller Grogan at the inauguration protesting abortion. (Brian Sydner/Reuters)

Small world: That’s where she works.

And so the crazy spectacle that played out on a corner of the Capitol grounds — and made national news when a judge banned the noisy protester from the District — had special irony for one woman in the center of the culture wars.

Meyers, head of Planned Parenthood’s D.C. office, and her daughter scored last-minute tickets to see the swearing-in ceremony Monday. The two headed for the Capitol grounds about 8 a.m. and found a spot to stand under a large tree. That’s when they heard shouting from the branches above. It took a minute to figure out the guy — anti-abortion activist Rives Miller Grogan — was protesting against Planned Parenthood and gun bans.

Laura Meyers, right, at the inauguration on Monday. (Laura Meyers)

It went on for five hours. Police tried to talk him down using a bullhorn. One officer started up the tree; Grogan climbed higher. The tree swayed; a branch fell. Everyone worried someone below would get hurt.

But no — just non-stop words. It got really frustrating once the program started. “He was screaming over everything,” said Meyers. “We couldn’t hear anything. If anyone said anything to him, he just screamed louder.”

Near the end of the ceremony, one exasperated woman standing under the tree shouted to the surrounding crowd: “Okay, folks! What we need to do is go home tonight and make a donation to Planned Parenthood.”

Still, Meyers kept quiet.

A First Amendment debate has erupted over Grogon’s protest and the judge’s harsh ruling. Meyers supports his right to free speech, though it was “profoundly disrespectful” to the other people at the ceremony. (She finally watched the swearing-in on her computer the next day.)

Her only real beef: The fact he protested in the tree. “I stand on the side of First Amendment expression,” said Meyers. “But I don’t stand for putting other people in harm’s way. That goes over the line.”

Earlier: Banning of protester from D.C. after inauguration ignites debate on free speech, 1/24/13

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