EVERY SATURDAY afternoon for the past few months, activists with In Defense of Animals (IDA) have convened on the sidewalk outside of Schumacher Fur Company at SW 9th and Morrison for an anti-fur demonstration. This past Saturday, the protest turned into a skirmish with the cops that resulted in two arrests.
Usually, the protests are subdued affairs: Activists hand out leaflets to passersby, or hold signs denouncing the fur industry.
More recently, Schumacher has fought back: A few weeks ago, signs in their windows announced a "protest sale"—all fur would be 50 percent off as long as activists were protesting.
This past Saturday, Schumacher's counter-protest became even more provocative. Digitally altered photos of the activists and their signs appeared on flyers in the store's window. One, featuring a sign that originally lambasted fur—with the slogan "Felony Animal Abuse: Beaten, Strangled, Skinned Alive, Anally Electrocuted"—now targeted the activists, saying "All Protesters Should Be Beaten, Strangled, Skinned Alive, Anally Electrocuted."
Owner Gregg Schumacher, reached by phone on Tuesday, March 7, declined to comment other than to say, "The only thing we talk about is how fashionable fur is. We don't talk about protests."
Activists say the cops stopped by the protest several times throughout Saturday afternoon. But just after 3 pm, when Portland Police Sergeant Larry Graham showed up, the protest turned ugly: "I witnessed [Graham] knocking into one group on purpose after he mistakenly thought someone had messed with his car," one woman wrote in a Portland Indymedia account. Graham threw one man against the police car, with the help of a Schumacher's security guard, before pulling him to the ground and arresting him. Eyewitnesses say the arrest was unnecessarily brutal, with Graham aggressively twisting the activist's arm—the activist wasn't resisting—as if to break it. Several more cops showed up, and another activist was arrested; both activists were charged with disorderly conduct, interfering, and resisting arrest.
The civil liberties watchdogs at Portland's Northwest Constitutional Rights Center are currently reviewing footage of the incident—the disturbing video backs up activists' accounts of the incident. (The police spokesperson says there were "absolutely no injuries" during the protests.)
"The Center is outraged at these events and is concerned that the level of violence displayed by Sgt. Graham may be the result of poor training, bad policies, and lack of citizen oversight," says Executive Director Alejandro Queral.