Animal rights activists march to Sproul Plaza in support of Berkeley fur ban

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More than 110 people marched through the streets from Downtown Berkeley BART to Sproul Plaza Sunday afternoon in support of a forthcoming Berkeley City Council proposal that would ban the sale of fur in the city.

The proposal  is modeled after a similar West Hollywood ordinance that went into effect in 2013 and will be considered at Berkeley City Council’s March 14 meeting. Members of animal advocacy groups Berkeley Coalition for Animals and Direct Action Everywhere, both of which have been lobbying for the proposal’s adoption, were heavily represented at the protest. Many protesters held signs or wore pins that read “Ban Fur.”

Berkeley Police Department released an advisory at around 2:00 p.m. warning that the protest was blocking Durant Avenue east of Shattuck Avenue. By 2:30 p.m. the marchers had gathered at Sproul Plaza where organizers and former 2016 presidential candidate Clifton Roberts spoke about the potential impact of a fur-ban in Berkeley.

“We need to speak out against greed, death and turmoil,” Roberts said. “We are standing hand in hand speaking out against torture.”

Though animal advocates have not identified any stores that sell new fur products in Berkeley, some thrift stores in the city, such as Buffalo Exchange, sell second-hand fur. Jay Quigley, secretary for the Berkeley Coalition for Animals, said that he does not believe that the sale of used fur products would be banned by the proposal.

Campus third-year Shannon Ashoori, who was on Sproul Plaza at the time of the protest, said that though she does not have a strong opinion on the fur ban, she does not see the point in wearing fur given that faux-fur alternatives exist.

She added, however, that she understands why other past animal rights demonstrations have made campus students “uncomfortable.” She recounted an experience when activists confronted her and others waiting in line to get doughnuts about the animal-based products in the food.

Matt Johnson, an activist with Direct Action Everywhere, said that the agenda item to ban fur is mostly symbolic and is part of a broader goal to make Berkeley “the most animal-friendly city in America.” He added that the proposal is a good starting point for the animal rights movement because fur products, which are typically seen as elitist and expensive, already lack public support.

“We’re banning fur today and we’re going to ban meat tomorrow,” said  Priya Sawhney, social media coordinator for Direct Action Everywhere. “Everyone can follow Berkeley.”

In a speech to the crowd, Orlando Torres, a volunteer for Berkeley Coalition for Animals, said that he thinks it is important to institutionalize the practices that already exist in Berkeley so that local stores remain fur-free in the future.

“We’re showing the city of Berkeley that we care,” Torres said to the crowd. “There are so many important issues in Berkeley, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to turn a blind eye toward violence against animals.”

Jessica Lynn is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.

A headline accompanying a previous version of this article misspelled Berkeley.