Morgan fumbles mink protest

Cathy Burt’s provocative post today about the mink pelt frenzy in Morgan County is recommended reading. Meantime, I’m going to zero in on the issue that to me is getting lost in the furor over the fur business and the animal rights protesters:

Morgan County, you’ve suffered a loss of free speech, at the hands of one of your own governing bodies. It’s now illegal to go within 1,000 feet of a private residence to protest anything in Morgan. Most locals probably support the fur industry and the people who live in Morgan and run the businesses. They’re probably outraged by the animal rights protesters who are planning protests. But it’s also probable, in that environment, that they’re forgetting the constitutional guarantees of right to freedom of speech and of assembly.

If a porn movie lord moved to Morgan and somehow managed to set up adult video stores, strip clubs and the like, how fast would the locals demand to exercise their rights to protest, up close? Right away, of course, because that’s America. Or it should be.

But by cordoning off protesters “a safe distance” from the mink business owners, Morgan officials have committed a reprehensible restriction of free speech — and deftly shot themselves in the big toe by calling even more attention to the mink operations and the animal rights protest movement. Now, they can expect much more attention to be drawn to the Morgan mink industry all the way until the planned November protests.

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9 Responses to Morgan fumbles mink protest

  1. Doug Gibson says:

    They don’t think about those questions or consequences you raise when they act in haste.

  2. Flatlander100 says:

    Got that right, both Mark and Doug.

    And Morgan County has succeeded in garnering publicity for the protesters beyond their wildest dreams, I suspect.

    Let’s think of how they might have handled it.

    Morgan had protest regulations already on the books. When informed the mink protesters were coming, suppose the Morgan officials had simply, and politely, told them what the existing regulations were, said they expected the protesters to stay within them, and offered the help of the city government and law enforcement in seeing that the protest came off without problems for anyone concerned.

    On the day of the protest, law enforcement would be there [addressing any protester they had to address, as "Sir" or "Ma'm" of course]. They would monitor the event quietly, from a short distance off to make sure the rules were complied with. Maybe help with traffic control if it became necessary.

    Had that happened, the protest might have generated a little news. Maybe a story in the SE back with the girdle ads. Not much else.

    Or the protesters could have brazenly violated the regs, and gotten themselves arrested… creating large scale public antipathy for them, I suspect [more than would otherwise exist], and corresponding sympathy for the mink killers.

    That’s all Morgan officials had to do to maintain their own constituents’ free speech liberties and to deal with the matter. Sadly, they did not possess the wisdom to do the right thing. Instead, they made it plain that in their view, free speech liberties should be freely exercised in Morgan only by people with whom they agree. Special regulations apply to all others.

    Maybe we can take up a small collection and send the Morgan officials a copy of the U.S. Constitution, including the first ten amendments to it [aka the Bill of Rights]. They seem to have misplaced theirs.

  3. Casey Shultz says:

    Flatlander100, I wish I would have seen your comment before we recorded this weeks audiocast. I totally would have used, “…a story in the SE back with the girdle ads.”

    Another missed opportunity for me. You make good points.

  4. Michael Trujillo says:

    I bet the Morgan County officials would be mad as hell if the Federal Government ammended the laws so that you couldn’t protest within 1000 feet of the White House or Capitol. It’s hard to protest against the socialist agenda when the liberal media cameras are nearly a quarter of a mile away.

  5. Al says:

    I also reserve the right to refer to ” back with the girdle ads” in the future. Nice post Mark, and good responses, flat.

    I would add that the idea of segregating protest to “allowed” areas far from the actual venue isn’t new, and is common at events such as G8 summits post-Seattle. Distasteful, but not novel.

  6. flatlander100 says:

    Al:

    Sadly, no, it’s not new and sadly, no, it’s not uncommon. It should be. I’m unhappy with the very idea of “free speech zones” being established at national political conventions or anywhere else. Usually means a fenced off area far from where any of the protest can be seen by any of the convention goers.

    I’m pretty old fashioned about stuff like this. Back when I was growing up, I was more or less taught that the entire nation was a free speech zone, and that — under very limited circumstances, and for very compelling reasons, and for very short times, a limit on free speech might be justified. Preventing a president or convention delegate the possible discomfort of seeing a protest in progress, or preventing news cameras from picking up the action, don’t come within light years of meeting any of those standards.

  7. Jessica says:

    Where does free speech end and harassment begin? Does following someone home to yell at them qualify as free speech or harassment? If it’s me in my home, I’d say it’s harassment! (Imagine if the mink farmers followed the vegans home and protested them over the use of oil for their pleather shoes and fake wool jackets!)

    There are plenty of ways to get your point across but people have a right to live peacefully in their homes. The protesters have all the public areas of Morgan and the Internet and via the media to get their point of view out there. The ordinance passed in Morgan has stood up in courts all over the country so, yes, I think the town of Morgan did the right thing.

  8. Michael says:

    Ordinances to protect homeowners in their homes have withstood court challenge as constitutional. They’ve been enacted all over the country, including in Utah, so Morgan doing this is no big deal. As I understand it, the Morgan ordinance was copied from one used in Salt Lake City.

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