Animal rights activists celebrate furrier's closing

December 06, 1992|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

A dozen animal rights protesters gathered in Towson yesterday and toasted the closing of Mano Swartz, the family-owned furrier that will cease operating after 103 years.

Bundled against the wind-chilled temperatures, members of Maryland Forum for Animals, based in Catonsville, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), based in Rockville, celebrated for two hours outside the red-brick store at 424 York Road.

They danced and pranced, tooting party horns. They chanted, "Compassion is fashion; Let's toast compassion!" and sipped Martinelli's sparkling cider from plastic champagne glasses.

Mostly they waved at passing cars and screamed at the stream of customers arriving and leaving the store's invitation-only Fleeting Memories Sale.

Baltimore County police observed the demonstration and dutifully reminded the activists to keep the entrance and exit to the store's tiny parking lot clear while the store's three plainclothes security men greeted customers and helped load their purchases.

"I don't think they should be happy over a store closing," said one man, waiting nearby for a bus.

"Go ask if any of them have jobs," said the man's companion. Neither would give their names.

Another passer-by, who said he was 37, took exception to a party horn blown in his right ear.

"I'm sorry," said one of the protesters, but the man returned with a policeman to arbitrate his complaint.

"I don't want to give you my name. One of those guys threatened me. My ear is still ringing," he said. "They're entitled to any cause they want -- this is America -- but I'm entitled to walk down the street without being harassed by them."

When hassled by the protesters, one customer leaving the store, a woman who appeared to be in her 60s, saluted them with one finger of her fur-lined glove. Her companion yelled, "Shut up!"

Other customers either averted their eyes or brushed off the demonstrators with a wave of their hand.

"We just learned the store was closing," said Peter Wood, the international campaign coordinator for PETA, noting a relatively small turnout of demonstrators. The organization had picketed with about 80 one week ago.

Richard Swartz, president of Mano Swartz, said Friday that a luncheon and news conference are scheduled for tomorrow to announce plans to close his store.

Attempts to enter the store yesterday were stopped by security men who said, "Mr. Swartz will have no comment."

Demonstrator David Brainerd of Catonsville said that "no matter what Richard Swartz says, furriers are going out of business because of the recession and what you see here.

"The young buyers in the 18 to 24 range are rejecting purchases because they have compassion for animals," he said.

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