Two groups staged protests Monday night outside Ann Arbor City Hall, calling on City Council to take action on disparate issues: the reopening of a piercing shop with a racist owner and the annual deer cull in Ann Arbor.
Protesters from BAMN and Stop Trump Ann Arbor demanded City Council take action against the reopening of Pangea Piercing, which closed in August after its owner, J.C. Potts, was accused white supremacism, sexism and inappropriate behavior by clients.
BAMN organizer Kate Stenvig, a University of Michigan alum, said she wanted to increase awareness about Potts, especially now that he had reopened his store.
“The first thing that we’re trying to do is spread the word that he’s back,” Stenvig said. “We’ve been passing out flyers outside of his place, we did a picket on Saturday and overwhelmingly people who come by are like, ‘Oh, my god, he’s back.’ On campus, too, people have heard about it and they’re disgusted.”
Public outcry forced Potts to close Pangea Piercing after a tweet accused him of espousing white supremacist ideology while giving a customer a piercing. Twitter user @LauraStroudd tweeted that Potts “began to talk to me about white supremacy, and why ‘whites must stick together.’ He repeated many times that when it came down to ‘us vs them’ I would have to embrace my ‘white heritage’ to survive.” The tweet went viral and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times.
In a statement posted to his YouTube channel in August, Potts said his career was “over” and he was “completely done with the piercing business.” He noted he was “nowhere near politically correct,” but denied being an advocate of white supremacy.
“I can see why I present a perfect target in the current climate,” Potts said. “Calling out anti-Blackness, anti-Semitism, homophobia or whatever is celebrated and accepted, but extending that to anti-whiteness, and quite a few people get that Pavlovian ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, what are you doing?’ — like that type of discrimination is somehow OK. I’ve always steadfastly said that no one should ever be disenfranchised or dispossessed because of characteristics they have no control over. I’ve always maintained that I do not want dominion over, nor seek to exploit, anyone — that’s like the exact opposite of white supremacy.”
Potts decided to reopen Pangea Piercing in late November, telling MLive that he was “a little nervous, but excited to hurry up and get back to work.”
Potts said he intended to install bars on the store’s windows and that he had taken steps to guarantee his employees’ safety as well as his own, installing security cameras throughout the shop and in the piercing bays.
Stenvig said Potts called the police because of the picketers on Saturday.
“He called the police, and they didn’t stop us from doing anything because we had the right to picket on the sidewalk, but he felt the need to have the police, like, escort him and the people who work there out at the end of the day, which is very unsustainable,” Stenvig said.
The other protesters outside of City Hall Monday night were members of The Ann Arbor Non-Lethal Deer Management, who held signs urging passing cars to “Stop the Shoot,” a reference to the city’s deer culling efforts. In 2015, following complaints about what residents saw as an outsize deer population that resulted in car accidents and damage to landscaping, City Council voted to establish a deer cull to manage the local deer population.
Former Ann Arbor resident Maggie Sadoff said she moved out of the city in part because she was so opposed to the deer cull.
“I used to live in Ann Arbor,” Sadoff said. “I used to live in Ward 2, but I moved out because I was so disgusted by the deer cull. Now I live in Scio Township. With guns in the park, blood in the snow, I could not stomach it any longer. I wanted no part of it.”
The city’s third annual deer cull took place in January and lasted more than three weeks. Hunters were hired to kill up to 250 deer, but ultimately fell short, killing only 115.
Ann Arbor resident Sue Nelson said she thought killing deer was wrong, and called the deer cull ineffective. She disagreed with claims the deer cull was a humane way to kill deer that saved them from a slow death due to starvation or disease.
“Maybe I would argue there are too many humans,” Nelson said. “We need to live with wildlife and realize that we have come in and taken over their territory and accept the fact that they live here too.”
2019 will be the final year of the approved four-year deer management plan. The city has not yet released specifics for “lethal removal” plans for this upcoming winter.