Two local organizations used altered versions of Lewis County’s logo for causes that, according to Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Meyer, fell outside fair use guidelines.
Last August, Gov. Jay Inslee’s sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for school staffers and health care workers coupled with a reinstated mask mandate preceded a protest gathering organized by a group called Medical Freedom Lewis County at the Sandrini Field in Adna.
Political leaders spoke at the event, including Lewis County Commissioner Sean Swope and state Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, both expressing opposition to the mandates.
Posted below the stage, facing the crowd, were signs created by Medical Freedom of Lewis County that were styled after the logo used by Lewis County government, which was first designed by Discover Lewis County, the entity that promotes tourism for the county.
The logo is simple. A green circle with what the Secretary of State has qualified as a “stylized stand of evergreen trees on uneven terrain,” Lewis County’s version reads “Lewis County, Washington’s First County, est. 1845.”
The mandate-resistant group in August used the same stylized stand of trees and circle around the words “Medical Freedom, Lewis County, WA.”
The event took place on Friday, Aug. 20.
The following weekend, Kyle Wheeler — a Toledo resident and founder of the Lewis County Lollipop Guild, an organization focused on LGBTQ+ activism — emailed Meyer asking if he felt Medical Freedom of Lewis County’s logo would cause citizens to think the event was sanctioned by the county, especially given that a county commissioner had taken the stage and been pictured by The Chronicle above the sign with the logo. Attached to the email was a screenshot of that picture from the paper.
In screenshots Wheeler sent The Chronicle, Meyer responded to Wheeler’s email saying, “My thoughts? I think it is a sign with trees and people exercising their first amendment rights. A person does not give up their ability to speak simply from being elected to an office.”
In another email from the same exchange, Wheeler sent Meyer an altered version of the Lewis County logo evoking an LGBTQ pride flag, that read “Lewis County Welcomes Everyone,” with the stand of trees colorized into a rainbow, saying, “Think I found our next free yard sign campaign.”
Wheeler said this was originally meant to be parody. He said he still has no issue with Medical Freedom of Lewis County, but that he thought getting up on the stage above that logo was a misstep by Swope and Abbarno, which prompted him to create the Lollipop Guild’s version of the logo in protest.
The Chronicle reached out to organizers of the Lollipop Guild and Medical Freedom of Lewis County to ask about the organization’s missions and uses of the logos. Medical Freedom of Lewis County declined to comment.
“I mean, honestly, body autonomy is obviously something that I believe in as well. So it's one of those I don't really disagree with the stance. It is when you take it that step further and stand on a stage knowing that there is a level of implying that this is Lewis County's stance as a whole,” Wheeler said in an interview.
Days after the original email exchange, Lewis County sent a cease and desist notice to organizers of Medical Freedom of Lewis County Jordan Dixon, Sean Bresnaham and Angie Middleton.
Wheeler said he did not receive any correspondence from the county about his version of the logo, but this week he received a letter from the Secretary of State’s office.
In a Facebook post about the letter, he wrote: “Meyer finally did his homework correctly and that Lewis County Welcomes Everyone parody logo, created and registered in order to ridicule a few local elected officials after their own misuse of public office, has been #cancelled. There will be no reveal for the pride postcard project. They might even sue me over the whopping $70 I collected auctioning off that proclamation.”
He felt it was his use of the logo that prompted the county to go after Medical Freedom of Lewis County’s version.
Meyer felt otherwise, saying, “Once it was brought to our attention that (Medical Freedom) was using our logo we addressed it. I don’t scour the newspaper looking for pictures of our logo. … They did quit using it, at least we have seen no additional uses of that by the organization. I don’t know if that’s the right word, I don’t know if they’re a formal organization or a loosely-based group.”
Ultimately, Wheeler said, the county logo is pretty generic. Logos for Lewis County Coffee Co., Lewis County Young Republicans and even new Sunbird owners Chehalis Outfitters use very similar formats. He also said he knows “two wrongs don’t make a right,” in reference to his use of the logo, but noted the importance of signage going back to the origin of the Lollipop Guild.
“I made a local Facebook group for the city of Toledo a couple of years ago. And I basically at the end of that post asked people, ‘Pride is coming up, can you just put like a little rainbow heart in your window or somewhere else?’” Wheeler said. “Queer kids like me growing up in places like here, seeing those little things here or there are the things that can keep you going.”