Furriers exit leaves sore spot
- Portland Tribune - Opinion
Few should be surprised that the announcement this past week that Schumacher Furs and Outerwear will move from downtown Portland to the suburbs did not bring an end to the weekly protests outside the store.
Almost every Saturday for the past year, dozens of animal-rights activists have protested on the sidewalk in front of the store at 811 S.W. Morrison St.
Even after the Schumachers announced they would leave town, more than four dozen protesters reportedly gathered outside the store again this past Saturday.
Did they gather to celebrate their victory? We suspect that some possibly did so.
But we also think that yet another afternoon of protests is a clear indication that animal-rights activists, including the organization In Defense of Animals, won't be satisfied until Schumacher Furs closes its doors permanently.
Portland-area residents should be troubled by this saga.
The protests have not only forced a longtime business from the civic core, but prompted the store's owner, Gregg Schumacher, to explain his decision to move as a reaction to his family and the store's customers not feeling safe to come downtown because of the protesters.
The city of Portland came off as not being prompt or willing to use either police action or city policy to limit the more extreme actions of the protesters.
Who will be targeted next?
We also are concerned that the Schumachers' decision to relocate sadly opens the door to difficulties involving aggressive animal rights activists and other city center businesses.
Downtown's nearby Nicholas Ungar Furs might be the next target. It is a lot like the Schumachers' business: an independently owned furrier.
Still others think that departments selling fur clothing in the city's major retailers - Macy's or Nordstrom - will be targeted.
It's possible that activists may spread their message and visible opposition to other businesses, such as restaurants or grocery stores that sell animal products, including meats.
Or might protests once again target research centers that use animals in testing? Could protests also extend to the Oregon Zoo where animals are kept locked up for viewing and safekeeping?
Rights not just for protesters
We are opposed to any expansion or continuation of protests by the animal-rights activists. Yet we recognize the importance of freedom of speech.
The Schumacher Furs saga is not only about people's rights to freely express themselves or their right to assemble in public. Both goals were accomplished at the first protest.
Instead, in this case, the ongoing protests were expressly organized to affect the store's operation.
Obviously, the effort worked. Which leads us to be concerned about what business will be targeted next and what response, if any, will the city of Portland or the police bureau offer?
We believe the City Council and police bureau should work together to create policies and procedures that allow citizens to gather and communicate downtown without affecting the rights and safety of others, including businesses.