First, the mention of pigeon shoots has become increasingly oblique in them, never mentioned specifically and instead referred to as “organized bird shoots.”
Second, they do not actually ask their supporters to call legislators to defend pigeon shoots. Instead they ask supporters to call in support of “sporting traditions”.
Finally, in an almost desperate tone, the NRA says, “Your legislators are claiming that they have not heard from you! Make no mistake, if they are not hearing from you, it means they are only hearing from extremists who want to destroy one of the Keystone State’s traditions. We need to make our voices heard.” Legislators aren’t hearing from pigeon shoot supporters? Maybe that’s because there really aren’t any. Or maybe it’s because the out of State “sportsmen” who are driving the dregs of this “proud tradition” are too busy beating up women.
It is hardly a surprise that these non-sporting spectacles for profit would lead to violence outside the shooting ring. When pigeon shooters assert their “Second Amendment rights” by launching trapped pigeons from catapults for target practice, it is to be expected that those who oppose these shoots will assert their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and express their opposition.
Increasingly, shooters are getting violent outside the shooting rings. For months protesters have been verbally harassed, had their property damaged, been pushed and shoved, even notoriously had a gun pulled on them in the middle of a busy Bucks County street. Until now, the response from the authorities, authorities who often block charges against pigeon shoots under current cruelty law, has been to ignore it or even charge the victims. They chalk it up to protesters “asking for it”. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? “It’s a shame she was raped, but what was she doing in that alley at night, anyway?”
But as the attacks have grown more severe, the protesters have been becoming less “in your face” and more peaceful and quiet in their demonstrations. It is increasingly hard for anyone to say the victims of assault are “asking for it.” And like so many other peaceful protests movements in the past, this only seems to inflame the opposition more.
Now the pushing and shoving has turned to punching and blood. Two of the most active pigeon shoot ban advocates have been attacked, on camera, by the proud pigeon shooters. If the NRA wants to protect Pennsylvania’s centuries old traditions, I’d like to suggest we leave violence against women off the list. One pigeon shooter from New Jersey doesn’t seem to agree and is filmed climbing inside the car window of one female activist and taking swings at her head while screaming profanities.
He didn’t like the fact that she was lawfully documenting who went to shoots (and if they are so above board, what’s the problem with getting your picture taken?). She wasn’t in his face, screaming, or waving signs. She was sitting in her car quietly across the street. But he decided that he was not just man enough to violate real sporting tradition and shoot birds in a box, he was man enough to beat up a woman.
Then, another activist, Steve Hindi of SHARK, was whipped on the head and bloodied. I will be the first to say Steve is no Martin Luther King or Gandhi– actually the second because I’m sure he’d be the first. In fact, I think he’s generally the definition of strident and we don’t find one another particularly likable. But is being unlikable an excuse for being beaten? Many find me entirely unlikable but I don’t expect those who don’t like me or what I say or how I say it should have the right to whip me. And wasn’t whipping the go-to method for controlling protesters in Selma, Cairo, Johannesburg, and Darshana? Could these shooters become more of a caricature of violent oppression?
I must think that at some point these attacks on defenseless protesters must garner some sympathy even from those who would just as soon not have the protestors around. Just as the images of attack dogs and water cannons made even those unsympathetic to King question the response, is it not time for our local and State police and DA’s to question their own inaction in the face of this violence? If it was me or you at a pigeon shoot, or a rally in Washington, D.C. or at the grocery store, being punched, whipped or threatened with a gun, wouldn’t we expect to be protected by the authorities? Wouldn’t the authorities expect it?
And now that we know what is happening at the handful of shoots still being held in Pennsylvania, who will our legislators side with? Will they side with the mere dozens of people who profit from shoots in Pennsylvania by hosting the mere scores of tough guys from other states who come to shoot? The NRA themselves told us that “their” people aren’t even calling in support of the shoots. Will the legislators side with brutes and victimizers who cap off a day of shooting by punching women and whipping men on the street?
Or will the side with the millions of Pennsylvanians who oppose these shoots and want them to end. The animal advocates and sportsmen alike. The animal rights activists and hunters alike. The vegans and the meat eaters alike. When so many disparate people and groups oppose a practice, even if it’s for various and differing reasons, it’s no longer called a “radical fringe” like the NRA would claim. It’s called a consensus.
It is a good sign that the attack on the female activist led to actual charges against the attacker this time, even if it was merely for harassment rather than assault. But what about the rest of the incidents, past and future? Where is our “no tolerance” policy for violence when it is directed at pigeon shoot protesters?
I’m not a marcher or protestor by nature. But if there are many more photos like these, I may find myself standing on the street in solidarity with the protestors, whether I personally like them or not. And you can damned sure bet that if someone whips me, I’m going to expect my DA to file charges.