Ohio University students and community members gathered near Artifacts Gallery, located at 2 W. State St., on Saturday morning to participate in a planned protest against the shop’s owner, Amy Mangano, in response to transphobic signage on her storefront.
At 10:20 a.m., people were already sitting outside the store waiting for the protest to begin. An influx of people holding signs and banners started flocking toward the store within minutes to stake out in front of the clothing store.
Throughout the entirety of the protest, Mangano stayed inside her store and took photos and videos of protesters outside.
Rylee Lee, a junior studying music education, was one of the students who helped organize the protest. Lee said the protest was important to ensure all groups of people's voices, no matter how they identify, were acknowledged.
“To see other women left behind because they don't fit the radical feminist’s cookie-cutter image of what a real woman is is awful,” Lee said. “Feminism is for all women. As a feminist, which I know I am, I'm here to fight for all of it. Hate just has no home here in Athens. Athens is one of the most loving places I've ever been.”
Lee said she knows other businesses along Court Street are not tolerant of transphobic remarks, and businesses, like Casa Nueva and Tony’s, are making strides to make a stand in different ways to show their support.
Jonna Lutz, a freshman studying film, used to enjoy going to Artifacts Gallery but once she learned about Mangano’s stance on transgender people she no longer wanted to continue shopping there. Lutz said she hoped the protest would inspire students to come together to stand up for their beliefs and put an end to the spread of hatred.
“I believe that by posting things on her storefront, she is violating laws regarding discrimination,” Lutz said. “I hope those laws can be taken more seriously.”
The legislation to which Lutz is referring is Athens City Municipal Code section 3.07.62 (b), which states, “It shall be unlawful for any proprietor or his/her employer, keeper, or manager in a place of public accommodation to deny any person, except for reasons applicable alike to all persons, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ancestry, marital or familial status, religious belief, age, or disability the full enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges thereof.”
Councilmembers Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, and Ben Ziff, D-At-Large, were on an adjacent corner of Artifacts Gallery watching the protest unravel.
Swank said he feels as councilmembers it’s their responsibility to know what is going on in the City of Athens.
In regard to the city’s anti-discrimination law, Ziff said it is important for people to remember one key point of the legislation, which is the specific act of denying service.
Swank said that in future council meetings, any council person is able to bring forward a consultation with the law director in regard to Mangano’s stance on transgender rights.
Nancy Epling, a community member and previous Artifacts Gallery employee, said she participated in the protest because Mangano has been promoting anti-trans beliefs within her business and online. Epling said from personal experience she has witnessed Mangano being emotionally abusive and manipulative. Ultimately, Epling said she believes there are many reasons why the Artifacts Gallery should no longer be a part of the community.
Epling wants the city to revisit its anti-discrimination law and begin enforcing it more seriously in all stores.
“I think it takes mass groups of people getting together to make change,” Epling said. “We can't do things individually; I think it takes a community, and for that to happen, we have to start small.”
Community member, Maia McFall, said she decided to come to the protest because she felt it was necessary that all identifying groups of people come together to show their support for those inflicted by transphobic remarks made by Mangano.
McFall said a change can’t fully occur unless all community members are willing to make a difference. However, McFall said she was hopeful that the protest would influence other people and surrounding businesses who may believe similarly to Mangano.
Liam Wilson, a freshman studying film, said he and his friends decided to protest against Mangano because he felt it was important to be able to openly express his values and ideas of what is right.
“We hope that we get our word out there, get our voices out,” Wilson said. “We show that trans rights are not a niche issue. It's something a lot of people care about, and we hope that maybe some business practices change.”
At 11 a.m., Artifacts Gallery opened for business and protesters moved to protest outside the Athens County Courthouse, while only a small group of protesters continued to hold signs outside of the store.
The crowd of protesters outside the courthouse chanted several phrases in support of transgender rights and continued to do so for a few more hours.