They are coming back. They are coming with their cages, their bullhorns, thier posters and thier costumes. And of course, Frank Sinatra will be playing on loudspeakers to lend that classy feel to the whole affair.
If you missed them on Oct. 9 on Walnut Street in front of Jacques Ferber Furriers, then I’m giving you the heads-up. This Sunday, Oct. 24, go to 1708 Walnut St. and witness a protest that borders on performance art. PETA is back.
I first saw the group while I was stumbling down Walnut Street, trying to avoid running into shoppers, when a guy to my right made some mention of messing with the people who were across the street. His friend told him no.
“Those people are crazy, they never forget anything and will be back to burn your house down,” he said.
So naturally I looked to see what they were talking about, thinking it would give me something to do besides stare at my shoes.
I looked over in amazement. I realized that the noises I was hearing were not just the regular crowded city street noises, but were a mish-mosh of indecipherable screams through a bullhorn, Frank Sinatra’s “My Kind of Town” playing over a loudspeaker, and a fair amount of heckling from passers-by.
I went right over to inspect. There was one girl in a crate, dressed in what looked to be a cat suit and was wearing a SARS-type mask over her nose and mouth. A different girl was holding up a large poster of some skinned varmint, looking sad and pouty. A giant man was dressed in a furry gray weasel costume, complete with a weasel head. He was holding a sign that read: “I Am Not Your Coat.”
True, I thought, but an old roommate of mine did have a coat that looked remarkably like yours – sans head.
Finally, a black-haired girl was yelling into a bullhorn about how many mink it took to make a fur coat.
These are some of Philadelphia’s PETA protesters. The group is currently led by Dezeray Rubinchik, a 26-year-old vegan bartender from Warminster, Pa. “I’m 150 percent devoting my life to animal rights activism,” she said. She also told me that the man in the costume was actually a fox, not a weasel like I thought.
They are squaring off against Andre Ferber, owner of Ferber Furriers, established in 1927. He said the demonstration on Oct. 9 was the first in almost three years. Before that, he says the protesters were out there every Saturday in the freezing cold or the summer heat. And for the record, Sinatra is his idea.
To be perfectly honest, activists in general scare me to death. To date, animal rights groups, most notably the Animal Liberation Front, are responsible for millions of dollars worth of damage to research facilities, furriers, a hotel and other establishments.
In recent years, unknown members of small animal rights groups in Philadelphia have thrown a brick through the front window of the Ferber store, defaced it with acid, and glued the door shut. According to online sources, Ferber now seeks over $50,000 in damages.
These people seem to be a little bit irrational. They went so far as to go to Ferber’s home in Upper Merion and have a demonstration there. Now most people feel that electrocuting mink in order to wear their fur is a little harsh, if not disgusting, but I think throwing a brick through the front window of a store that only sells the merchandise is a little extreme. Ferber said an employee was standing about three feet away from the window when the brick was thrown. He said if he did not have shatterproof windows, the employee could have been seriously injured.
Ferber and Rubinchik both said that the demonstrations have been met with more public animosity than support. Ferber said he saw a man outside his window threatening to punch a protestor in the face, and Rubinchik told me that a woman grabbed her bullhorn and started screaming in her face to lower her voice. Ironically, Ferber said he gets more business on the days the protesters are present.
Certain groups, especially the Animal Liberation Front, fully support the destruction of property, and somehow this is supposed to increase awareness of their cause. I don’t think this is going to help them in anyway. They are not seen as a legitimate group, but as a bunch of fringe wackos most people want to stay away from.
Ferber says that these groups represent a new kind of domestic terrorism. I can see his point when his, as well as others’, property is being destroyed.
But people are fully within their rights to peaceably protest.
As Ferber said, “[when you] take away their rights, you take away my rights.”
Then he tried to sell me a coat.
Meredith Lindemon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.