The news release arrived in my e-mail box just after noon Friday. "Fur Free Friday," it was headed. "Anti-Fur Demonstration."
Oh, boy, I thought. It's the annual protest on the sidewalks in front of Scottsdale Fashion Square, none of whose local stores actually sells fur pieces, but for a fee, one or two of them will put into storage any you already own.
For several years now, each Friday after Thanksgiving - considered the biggest shopping day of the year, but retail industry organizations have been saying that for more than a decade now - about seven or eight people spend a few hours in front of the mall carrying signs protesting the wearing of fur.
Some of the Valley's news media show up.So have we at the Tribune. After all, our Scottsdale offices are directly across the street - and if we frequently go great distances for a story, we can certainly bring ourselves to check out something we can see from our window.
"This will be one of the most effective Fur Free demonstrations Arizona has ever seen!" the news release exclaimed. "We expect hundreds of protesters in front of Fashion Square Mall."
Golly. In recent years, this protest has had its moments, such as when about four young women stood naked (except for high heels and banners wrapped around them in key places). Friday's event, though, featured a few dozen mostly clothed protesters, although one young woman was wearing a bikini while another had signs pasted over her in places where clothes normally go.
Most years, the folks in charge of this event are members of an animal-rights group fully exercising their First Amendment right to free speech to point out what they see is a social wrong: The killing of animals solely for fur.
This year, though, the release said, three such groups "have combined forces."
I don't own a fur, and no one I know does. The world could do without fur clothing, particularly when it's for fashion purposes rather than survival.
Yet whenever I see folks protesting fur here in Scottsdale, my thoughts always go to the idea that given that their numbers are few (despite claims such as "hundreds of protesters"), wouldn't it be best to "combine forces" at shopping malls in places such as Minnesota and Wisconsin first? Anyway, here's a play-by-play of the protest, which was to last from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at Goldwater Boulevard and Camelback Road:
1:06 p.m. About four people (all fully clothed and in black, except for one guy in blue jeans and a red sweatshirt) stand across the street readying a couple of signs that appear to be about 3 feet by 5 feet. No sign yet of "hundreds."
1:13 p.m. There are now six of them with about four signs. A city vehicle (the words "Traffic Engineering" are on the side) pulls up in front of our building, and two guys who were in the vehicle are now standing on the opposite corner from the protesters.
Passers-by do not slow down to talk or stare; Black Friday deals wait for no one, apparently.
1:19 p.m. The six protesters are now 11. The number of signs is about the same; the others are merely milling about, rarely waving at passing cars, more or less talking to each other.
A second city vehicle, identical to the first and also bearing the words, "Traffic Engineering," pulls up.Maybe these two sets of city workers will make sure no one pushes those crosswalk signal buttons too many times.
1:34 p.m. The protesters' ranks have swelled to 17, including the young women wearing the signs and the bikini, which have prompted the first horn honks of the event. Still, I think a panel truck with a billboard promoting a local radio station that's circling the mall is getting more attention.
1:54 p.m. There are now about 25 protesters (eight people times three groups) and about 20 signs, most of which have plenty of writing on them. The two city vehicles and their occupants are gone; I presume they are satisfied that traffic is running smoothly.
The protest is now on three corners, with about two or three sign-bearers each on the second and third ones. Cops come and go, mostly pulling over speeders.
2:10 p.m. A weather Web site tells me that the temperature is 63 degrees in downtown Scottsdale. So when clouds hide the sun, the two nearly bare women become self-sacrificing heroes to their cause.
3:30 p.m. Some of the sign-bearers, who have been standing for more than two hours, start sitting on the curb. Most keep their signs aloft, though. And some drivers are honking at people who aren't the woman in the bikini. Not many, though.
4 p.m. The protest ends and the 25 quietly go their separate ways. Just so you (and my boss) know, I didn't spend three hours looking across the street. I actually got some other work done, too, in between. Actual journalism. Really.
Note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this column.