Going To See The Fishers

by Katy Tahja, August 24, 2016

So I got invited to a public shaming…and being a retired librarian and thinking the family to be shamed disgraceful…I decided to do something I’d never done before. Attend.

Being a ballot proponent for Measure V in Mendocino County last June, which said standing dead forests are a danger to everyone and passed with 62% of voters agreeing, I went along on the August 18 event in San Francisco after organizers promised me I wouldn’t get arrested…I had to go to work the next day.

Tons of information has been printed in the AVA about San Francisco’s Fisher family. They are basically made out of money, multi-millionaires, and owners of Mendocino Redwood Company along with the Gap, Banana Republic, and a wide variety of other concerns. They are socialites in the big city, support worthy charities and museums, and may personally be nice folks, but their business practices are dreadful IMHO.

Mendocino Redwood Company will fight like crazy with high-powered lawyers NOT to obey the rules in Measure V. The company feels if their intentionally created dead forests catch fire and burn over the property lines and destroy your house it is not their fault and why should they be financially responsible? In the time of huge wildfires burning all over the state their forestry practices require creating more dead trees with herbicide so they can earn more money.

I had mental visions of colonial days in the USA…perhaps something like the “Scarlet Letter”…or a conservative religious community turning on one of it’s own members for an indiscretion, as a public shaming. With the Fisher family we wanted to bring public attention to the fact that their business practices were questionable at best. We wanted people on the street to know what this family was up to. So we took it to the street.

I have nothing but admiration for Beth Bosk and the decades of work this woman has put into protecting the redwood forest. She may be thought of as an aging silver-haired hippy who does not know when to give up but that woman sure can organize folks and she did again for this event. Of course, this is Mendocino, and while the best laid plans look great on paper with 30 independent spirits involved plans can get convoluted.

Four vans brought folks from every corner of the county, and their artwork, and their drums. You can’t have chanting on the sidewalk without a back beat. Mendocino’s Raging Grannies vocal group brought a guitar and harmonized over anti-logging songs. Some truly beautiful banners painted by local artists were held aloft and Sharon Doubiago read her poetry relevant to the event. We ranged in age from 10 to 80 I’d guess and we all want a world where the earning the almighty dollar does not have to mean environmental degradation.

After spending way to much time trying to find One Maritime Plaza (which does NOT show up on GPS phone programs), but turns out is next to One Embarcadero Center, we demonstrated holding our signs at an angle since Fisher’s business offices were 14 floors above us. We made speeches, sang songs, waved signs, and attracted attention. We were also told by security we’d be arrested if we tried to step into the building. What was fun was that people exiting the building came to tell us that the many Fisher company employees were at the windows watching us, even if we couldn’t see them.

Trying to do anything in a big city…especially driving…takes WAY more time than planned, so we had to skip our plans to go stand outside the Fisher family homes for awhile waving signs just to irritate them and their neighbors because time did not permit. So we went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where Fisher’s are on the Board of Directors and have donated several floors of modern art. What this museum has in it’s collection was discussed in detail in the AVA a week or two back…leave it to say the reviewer was not impressed.

It was absolutely delightful street theater as museum visitors walked out of the doors of the museum to be faced with a protest before them. We were polite. We passed out flyers with information. We did not impede foot traffic and three security guards who made sure we were not on MOMA property but on public sidewalks watched us. We got honks of support from meter maids and tour bus drivers and bicycle messengers. We were allowed to use rest rooms and investigate the gift shop and dine in the café if we left our protest signs outside.

People stopped, asked questions, and the alternative press and public radio interviewed us. The crowds had no idea the museum benefactors were out destroying the forest. I heard a lot of “Oh my’s…” when they learned about what happens when a forest is managed for shareholders, not Mother Nature. Folks left a little more informed then when they arrived. It was as much as we could hope for. We couldn’t change the world overnight but we could draw attention to the problem.

A hard day’s protesting deserves a reward and we found it at an Indian restaurant called Lotus in San Rafael. We were literally swooning at the mixture of flavors as seven of us swapped dishes back and forth. Highly recommended. It was after 11p.m. when we got back to Ukiah and I still had to drive an hour home to Comptche. Sunburned and exhausted I considered the day well spent.

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