Fur Flies

With Schumacher's leaving downtown, what's next for animal rights activists?

Now that Schumacher Furs is leaving downtown, where will the store's protesters take their enlarged photos of skinned animals and chants of "40 dead animals, one fur coat"?

In Defense of Animals outreach coordinator Matt Rossell, one of the regular demonstrators each Saturday afternoon for nearly a year outside Schumacher's, expects the weekly protests to continue until Schumacher's actually closes its doors on Southwest Morrison Street later this spring.

"I have no intentions to follow them," says Rossell, speaking on behalf of IDA. "I can't say what other people will do. If they move their store to a place that is no longer conducive to doing outreach, then it doesn't make sense to do outreach there."

The dozen or so activists who regularly protest Schumacher's are a loosely organized group, mostly connected through IndyMedia and not necessarily affiliated with IDA, according to Rossell. Some on the IndyMedia website (portland.indymedia.org) vow to follow Schumacher's wherever it relocates.

"Wherever they move, we're going to have to find out and protest there. I'm not stopping until they're out of business and have to burn their coats to warm their homes. Maybe we could organize a carpool to get to their new location for those of us who don't drive," reads a Nov. 28 IndyMedia comment posted by someone identified as "Sky."

Meanwhile, Rossell says IDA intends to "create a dialogue" with Nicholas Ungar Furs, which on Southwest Yamhill Street is the only other fur-centered retailer downtown. Store representatives had "no comment" for WW about the possibility they may be the next target for protesters.

As for Schumacher's owner Gregg Schumacher, he doesn't have any advice for future targets. But his anger toward protesters hasn't cooled since he announced last week that he'll move the 111-year-old store from downtown to an undisclosed location.

"I define them as 'animal rights terrorists,'" Schumacher says. "There's actual terrorist activity going on in front of our store."

Some protesters see the move as a clear victory in their "war on fur," but Rossell says it's not so clear.

"I don't see it as a defeat, but it was never our intention to try to have Schumacher's leave town," said Rossell, who says the main goal was education. "One thing that's come out of this is, fur is controversial. It's not just acceptable in our society."

Schumacher declined to reveal where his store will move, though he did indicate it would be outside Multnomah County. Any rumor about a move to Bridgeport Village in Washington County was quelled by a call to Fred Bruning, president of CenterCal, which owns the upscale shopping center.

"That's not a tenant we'd want to have on our property because I'd be one of the protesters, probably," says Bruning.

For an extended interview with Matt Rossell, check out WWire at wweek.com.

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