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.