History in the Making
In 1997, the first incarnation of the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade launched the national campaign against Neiman Marcus. For the next five years, grassroots groups across the country hurled themselves into the CAFT campaign, using the cutting-edge tactics of that era:
The heart and soul of the campaign was weekly demonstrations at Neiman stores. The campaign spread to a dozen cities, with activists constantly ramping up the frequency and creativity of their actions.
CAFT began “Fur Free Christmas,” mobilizing activists to treat Fur-Free Friday (Black Friday) not as a monolithic day of protest, but as the jumping-off point for a month of hard-hitting action through Christmas Eve.
CAFT adopted the tactic of “open to close” presence outside of Neiman locations. These unceasing protests lasted from morning until night, sometimes for days on end, and took place during holidays, sales, and promotions.
Civil disobedience played an important role in the campaign, not as a symbolic tactic but to disrupt Neiman’s revenue stream.* These actions began on Fur Free Friday 1997, and became larger, more elaborate, and more impactful.
In-store disruptions were often done before or after scheduled protests. CAFT also targeted Neiman’s annual shareholder meetings, fashion shows, and other events. The campaign saw tactical experimentation beyond that as well. Historic actions took place every year.
Old articles detailing participants and arrestees at Neiman Marcus actions read like a list of future leaders and innovators of the animal rights movement. Many went on to occupy central roles in legendary campaigns like SHAC, head up departments at national organizations, publish journals and websites, speak internationally, practice law, or go underground to liberate animals and commit principled acts of sabotage.
The tactics and strategies of that era may not have resulted in victory over Neiman Marcus, and may not all be adaptive to 2021. But the hundreds of activists who took part in the original CAFT campaign exemplified the hard work, creativity, and determination needed to win the Neiman Carcass campaign today. The animals are counting on us to finish writing history.
A Selection of Actions 1997 – 2002
September 27: At Neiman’s “90 Furs for 90 Years” anniversary celebration in Dallas, the company’s head of security viciously attacks CAFT activist Lydia Nichols, sending her to the hospital with bruises across her body and a concussion.
November 28: Dallas activists lock down at Neiman’s flagship store and burn an effigy of a Neiman’s credit card for TV cameras.
November 28: In San Francisco, activists unfurl a banner from a construction crane across from Neiman in Union Square and lock down to the entrance, kicking off a month of actions.
December 12: DC activists chain Neiman’s doors shut and paste anti-fur posters to the foyer windows.
December 22 – 24: DC activists protest outside of Neiman every second that it is open for the three days prior to Christmas.
Image: Minneapolis activists erect an eight-foot-tall scaffold in front of Neiman Marcus, from which three skinned beavers dangle in leghold traps. (December 11-12, 1999)
February 20: Michigan activists drop a banner from Neiman’s roof over the store’s logo and U-lock their heads to the entrance.
May 20: In Beverly Hills, activists disrupt a fur fashion show being held at Neiman.
December 18-19: In San Francisco, a Christmas weekend of action against Neiman sees 76 arrests, an in-store disruption, a mass sit-in blockading all store entrances, and an octopus lockdown with a circular sit-in surrounding it.
December 19: Chicago activists lock themselves to store entrances, part of a week-long onslaught before Christmas.
January – February: Minneapolis activists set a record when they hold demonstrations at Neiman every single day for over a month.
February 19: In DC, after a demonstration of 250 people, thirteen activists return to occupy and shut down the second floor of the store.
December 16: In San Francisco, 36 activists lock-box themselves together across all store entrances, are arrested and cite-released, and immediately return to protesting.
January 28: In DC, after a morning in-store disruption, 330 people protest outside of Neiman, occupying an entire city block and leaving three glass doors smashed and one off the hinges.
August 17: DC activists cover the general manager’s office in leaflets and mink skins with the heads still attached.
Image: San Francisco activists lock down to the Neiman Marcus store entrance and to the fur salon, and drop a banner from the second floor. (July 22, 2000)
February 16: DC activists stage the largest act of anti-fur civil disobedience in American history, a 200-person sit-in at Neiman, closing the store for the day.
June 24: San Francisco activists hang a banner targeting Neiman over the Bay Bridge during morning rush hour traffic.
September 30: In Beverly Hills, a large Neiman demonstration shuts down Wilshire Blvd, the city’s major artery. Police barricade the store and indiscriminately beat activists, prompting a spontaneous 70-person sit-in.
Elements outside of CAFT also took action against Neiman Marcus.
On August 3, 1999, the Animal Liberation Front freed 3,000 minks from Krieger Fur Farm in Bristol, Wisconsin, citing the farm’s relationship with Neiman Marcus.
On February 27, 2000, the ALF shattered twenty-nine windows and display cases at Neiman’s Union Square location in San Francisco, causing $100,000 in damage, making headlines, and inspiring similar actions in three cities.
Image: Krieger Fur Farm supplied Neiman Marcus with prized “Blackglama” mink skins and other genetic mutations. As of April 2021, the farm is confirmed to be out of business.
*Civil Disobedience: Except in rare circumstances, the current incarnation of CAFT USA does not believe in the efficacy of intentional arrest in the contemporary era, particularly for symbolic or performative purposes. Maximize your impact, preserve your freedom, and practice security culture.