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To Go All the Way for Animals

Posted by at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)


To Go All the Way for Animals by Michelle RiveraIt all began when I first saw the “Help Wanted” sign on the window.  A new store was opening at CityPlace, a swanky, upscale outdoor mall in West Palm Beach, and upon investigation, I found out that it was a new pet store that would be selling puppies. When my blood pressure came back to somewhere near normal, I took a deep breath and decided that I needed to take steps to try and prevent this place from opening. The world does not need any more pet stores that sell puppies. The world doesn’t need any more pet stores, period. There are already too many abandoned animals in this world-waiting in animal shelters to be adopted-and not enough good homes available.

I watched the progression of this awful enterprise with a mixture of horror and disdain, and when I saw the big ad in the newspaper announcing that the store would hold a “doggie fashion show” on the occasion of its grand opening, I decided that would be the perfect time for a protest. After all, the people were coming out to see the store open, so I would have a captive audience in front of the store.

As is my usual procedure, I visited the police department and requested a permit to hold a peaceful protest. They denied it, citing CityPlace as “private property.” Hmm, really? Private property? An outdoor mall? That just didn’t seem right. But no matter, I knew that I had to find another way.

I went online and designed an anti-pet store T-shirt. I gave the shirts to a couple of friends, and we went for a stroll near the pet store. Well, that didn’t sit well with the store manager, so she called the cops. We figured, what the heck? They can’t throw us out for wearing a T-shirt!

Oh, how innocent! Oh, how naïve! Oh, what a farce!

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Moments later, we were accosted by two very imposing police officers who told us that we had to leave CityPlace immediately or we would be arrested. Arrested! For wearing T-shirts? In America? I protested, citing my First Amendment right to free speech. “That does not apply here,” I was told by the bully. “Leave or I will arrest you now!”

Well, he won the battle that night, but we won the war. I contacted the ACLU and told them my little tale of woe. They were outraged, to say the least. Together, we filed a lawsuit in federal court demanding that we be allowed to protest in CityPlace, maintaining that CityPlace is, indeed, a public arena.

And that was it! I am happy to report that the case had a happy outcome. Of course, this sentiment was not shared by the mall manager, who complained about wanting to protect his tenants. Nor was is shared by the police chief, who only cared about the business perspective of things.

But in spite of them all, we did it. I ended up settling, and now I get to hold a protest in CityPlace-without being threatened with arrest-whenever I feel like it. And I will feel like it until this horrible place is out of business.

I wanted to share my experience with you, my fellow Primers, because this endeavor solidified my belief that you should never be afraid to go the extra mile for animals, and if you have to make a federal case out of something, so be it. Sometimes, people count on your ignorance of your rights to mislead and bully you. Don’t take “no” for an answer.

Animals deserve nothing less.

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21 Comments

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    Laura Frisk says...

    April 1st, 2010, 5:20 pm

    Wow! Michelle, what you did is awesome! You are a true hero for the animals!

    Elsy Shallman says...

    April 2nd, 2010, 5:44 pm

    I cannot believe this took place in my own back yard. Slowly we are loosing our rights, but I am so glad to know that you Michelle are a brave woman with convictions and great love for our fellow beings. I hope to see you soon at Angie’s to shake your hand. We need more animal heros like you.

    Sandra says...

    April 2nd, 2010, 6:05 pm

    Very well done Michelle. You are a hero to the animals.

    Tiffani Hooper says...

    April 2nd, 2010, 7:33 pm

    Thanks for an inspiring story. You are awesome! It was nice to read this today. Earlier today, someone that I know, who I thought was going to adopt a dog, told me about a puppy she is buying. From a breeder. Who is Amish!

    Naila M. Sanchez says...

    April 2nd, 2010, 7:33 pm

    God bless you, Michelle!!!! You are fantastic and your friends, too! YOU GO, GIRLS!!!! Come on, Everyone! Let’s do what we need to do to PROTECT ANIMALS!!!

    Christina says...

    April 2nd, 2010, 7:36 pm

    Way to go, Michelle! You WILL succeed!

    Thomas Van Wyck says...

    April 2nd, 2010, 7:59 pm

    Good for yoou Michelle. This world needs more gals (and guys) like you to start righting the infinite acts of cruelty done to our fellow ceatures. We have made a hell on earth for so many. Keep up your good work.

    Crista says...

    April 2nd, 2010, 8:21 pm

    Thank you, Michelle, I appreciate your persistence for getting the word out and knowing your rights for free speech. Most people would of gave up but not you. I salute you for your bravery.

    Tammatha says...

    April 2nd, 2010, 8:53 pm

    Did you get the pet store shut down? Hope so!

    George says...

    April 2nd, 2010, 10:37 pm

    Wat an inspiration. Thanks Michelle for not giving up
    George

    Andrea says...

    April 3rd, 2010, 12:14 am

    Wow! We need more people like you in this world!!

    Carrie Jenkins says...

    April 3rd, 2010, 12:17 am

    You are my new Idol! I always wondered what would happen if I took steps to protest here in Scottsdale, Az. at a local mall that has a pet store. You just might have given me the nudge I needed… Thank you!

    Lisa Welch-Sweeney says...

    April 3rd, 2010, 12:29 am

    You are SO INSPIRING, Michelle! Way to go! We all need to be as fearless as you, to stand up for those who have no voice. What a great story!

    Debra Tomasums says...

    April 3rd, 2010, 4:18 am

    Fantastic result Michelle. I live in Australia and I cringe when I walk past the pet shop in our local mall – always on display are cute fluffy puppies and kittens. And of course there are always children crying they “want one” as they walk by – you have inspired me to become proactive in spreading the word about the cruelty involved in supplying these stores.

    Deborah says...

    April 3rd, 2010, 7:55 am

    Good for you! Most people would have backed down in the face of such authority. But you knew your rights of peaceful protest were being violated! We have the legal and moral obligation to inform people about puppy mills and of the many wonderful puppies and dogs awaiting adoption in our animal shelters.

    Julie Bowyer says...

    April 3rd, 2010, 12:08 pm

    Well done Michelle you really stood your ground for these animals. You deserve a ‘Peta’ gold medal.

    Anamari says...

    April 5th, 2010, 8:00 pm

    Wow, you’re so admirable!
    We need more people like you in this world.

    cath says...

    April 6th, 2010, 6:09 am

    Hi Michelle – I’d be interested to know what law protected you on Mall property. Here in Canada, I believe that malls are still considered private property, but I know there has been discussion about changing this due to the very nature of the business … if you can offer any advice or give more details of what happened and how you managed to continue to “demo” on the property, i’d appreciate it. I’ll watch for additional info on this forum. many thanks

    Michelle says...

    April 7th, 2010, 7:08 pm

    First, you all are being so very kind, but I wasn’t looking for praise, I wanted to let you know that you should not be afraid to go the extra mile and that there are always going to be people who will want to beat you down and break your spirit but there are just as many people who will help you and do what they can to promote the right thing.

    Also, the Amish are big on puppy mills. In fact, it is one of the biggest puppy mill industry areas. So I am willing to bet that the “breeder” who is Amish where your friend bought the puppy is a bona-fide puppy mill.

    Finally, As far as protesting in the area that is considered private property, basically, we were able to prove that since the public views that area as public use, and that the majority of the public believes it is public property, and due to our first amendment right to the constitution to free speech, we were able to get our right to protest reinstated.

    Update: We have been having weekly demos. First 10, then 15, then 20 and then 35 people at the last demo!!!! It’s very important we keep up the pressure.

    Thanks again to all for the kind words of encouragement.

    Michael says...

    April 11th, 2010, 3:33 pm

    I too live in Canada and have been deeply bothered by a pet store that I pass often in a shopping mall. I have often fantasized about handing out leaflets at its door but I have no idea about whether or not it is even legal. I must admit that not knowing has stopped me altogether. But Michelle you have just inspired me. I can now see myself taking steps towards finding out about it. Thank you so much! People like you renew my faith.

    Judith Howard says...

    April 14th, 2010, 8:57 am

    That took a lot of courage. Thanks for sharing your story. Very inspiring. Love the t-shirts.

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