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Related Categories: North Bay / Marin | Animal Liberation
Fur protests threaten to split Guerneville
by Carol Benfell
Sunday Jan 2nd, 2005 3:10 PM
Demonstators, merchants refuse to budge in dispute over sales of fur coats
Thursday, December 23, 2004

There is nothing soft or cuddly about the fight over furs in Guerneville this holiday season, as animal rights activists square off against the newly opened Kings & Queens Vintage Clothing store.

What started as a protest against just one small store has grown into picketing of two stores, threats of boycotts against all Guerneville merchants and what some are calling an insensitive statement by activists comparing the used fur coats to Nazi lampshades made of human skin.

After three weeks of protests, store owner Mikki Herman is more determined than ever to resist what she calls terrorist tactics. She said she'll continue selling the dozen or so 30- to 70-year-old fur coats until the protesters give up and go away.

Alex Bury, who organized the protest of Sonoma People for Animal Rights, said the age of the furs doesn't change the cruelty that led to the animals' deaths. She has vowed to continue to protest until Herman removes the furs, no matter how long that takes.

The dispute escalated earlier this week when about 10 members of Sonoma People for Animal Rights, waving posters and pictures of wild animals suffering in traps, were met by about 20 counter-protesters shouting and carrying signs, such as "I like fur" and "I eat meat."
The potentially polarizing effect of long-term protests is becoming a concern for many, including the Russian River Chamber of Commerce and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a volunteer group that seeks to foster community spirit among Guerneville's diverse mix of residents.

It's all come as a shock to Herman, a 30-year Guerneville resident, who sees herself as left-of-center politically and who opened her first store, with its vintage evening dresses, suits and accessories, to encourage recycling.

She also takes issue with fur industry practices but said she is comfortable selling coats made of fur from animals that died so long ago.

"I don't approve of inhumane raising tactics or inhumane killing," said Herman, 50. "I also have issues with the fur industry, and I would never buy new fur. But by the time these items hit the used market I feel they are an inalterable fact. ... To bury that fur is pointless and a waste."
Bury, 34, a former owner of Sparks Restaurant and a long-time animal rights activist, said the store is sending a message that it's all right to wear fur.

"They say they're vintage furs, but nobody knows that when they see them," said Bury, a six-year Guerneville resident. "Kings & Queens is doing the marketing for the fur industry. If someone wears a fur coat on the street, they are saying furs are cool and it's OK to skin animals alive."
Bury circulated a petition signed by some 35 Guerneville residents, threatening a boycott of Herman's store and urging her to donate the furs to People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, which buries or cremates the furs or gives them to the homeless or people in Afghanistan.

"I'd offer to pay the shipping if she would send the furs to PETA," Bury said. "Or she could sell what she has now and not buy any more."
But Herman said the chance for dialogue ended when Bury compared Herman's used fur coats to the Nazi lampshades made from the skin of Jews.

Herman is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust.

"There is no conversation that can be had with someone who thinks bunny fur is the same as the skin of a Jew," Herman said. "I come from a long line of people who act on their conscience, and I've got no choice but to continue what I'm doing."
Bury said she didn't know Herman was Jewish when she made the lampshade comment but would not back away from the description.

"Animals have the same nerve endings. They feel the same pain," Bury said. "If Hitler made things out of skin ... and sold lampshades, I wouldn't want them in my business. That's how I feel about fur. Total pain and suffering."
Since Kings & Queens opened Dec. 4, protesters also have begun picketing a second Guerneville store, Memories that Linger, owned by 20-year Guerneville resident Jennifer Neeley.

Neeley, 33, has four rabbit-fur scarves and some garments trimmed with rabbit fur for sale. She said the protest has hurt her business but she won't remove the clothing.

"Nobody is going to tell me what to sell in my store," said Neeley, who carried a sign saying "Support Your Local Business" during the protest and counter-protest earlier this week.

Bury said her group will picket until the furs disappear at both stores.

"If the fur is still here, we will step up our protests for the summer season and we will be calling for a tourism boycott," Bury said. "We will be alerting San Francisco that you don't want to come to Guerneville this summer. It's not the progressive place you thought it was."
That is the wrong note as far as former county Supervisor Ernie Carpenter is concerned.

Carpenter, now acting executive director of the Russian River Chamber of Commerce, said he doesn't like furs either.

"But if the people who don't like furs don't want to address that straight up, and want to threaten the entire economic vitality of the region because of that, they lose my sympathy immediately," he said.

Even the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a multi-gendered volunteer organization, has been drawn into the issue.

The Sisters, who have contributed thousands of dollars to local nonprofits, schools and libraries, dress extravagantly to spoof gender stereotypes and call attention to issues, such as poverty, homelessness and disease.

Stefan Howard, a Guerneville resident working with Bury, had asked the sisterhood to join in picketing Kings & Queens, but the group declined, said the group's representative, who would identify himself only as Sister Sparkle Plenty.

Instead, Plenty and several other group members appeared at Sunday's protest as private individuals, carrying signs that said "Feed the Hungry" and "House the Homeless."
"My feeling is that there is so much divisiveness going on, and there are bigger issues," Plenty said. "The community is about coming together and not splitting apart."
On Monday, Bury e-mailed the Russian River Chamber of Commerce, offering to let the chamber mediate a compromise that would end the sale of fur.

The chamber doesn't see the mailing as a formal request but would be willing to mediate if asked, Carpenter said.

"I'd like to help keep a level playing field," Carpenter said. "No one I know condones fur, but there are always shades of gray. This situation really cries out for more understanding and more dialogue.

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assumptionsthere you go againThursday Jan 20th, 2005 12:39 PM
"who's *forcing* anything on you?"since you asked . . .Wednesday Jan 19th, 2005 8:55 AM
who's *forcing* anything on you?and byTuesday Jan 18th, 2005 11:43 PM
yeah me too"heard it before"Tuesday Jan 18th, 2005 11:19 PM
"sacred"heard it beforeTuesday Jan 18th, 2005 10:47 PM
tearing the wings off flies... because I can.dear nanibushTuesday Jan 18th, 2005 9:55 PM
NanibushNanibushTuesday Jan 18th, 2005 7:50 AM
"nice try"heard it beforeMonday Jan 17th, 2005 11:11 PM
to the straight mannice try mr. foie grasMonday Jan 17th, 2005 9:39 PM
August 5, 1758Samuel JohnsonMonday Jan 17th, 2005 5:54 PM
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