When Big Tobacco Invoked Eric Garner to Fight a Menthol Cigarette Ban

In an interview in the sanctuary of his church, Mr. Green said his congregation did not pay for the buses — or the 300 turkey sandwich lunches provided to the protesters — and refused to say who did. Nearby in the sanctuary sat an employee of SKDKnickerbocker, one of the registered lobbyists for the Fur Information Council of America. (The firm did not pay for the buses, an SKDKnickerbocker spokesman said.)

A person with direct knowledge of the fur industry efforts said that Mr. King of Mercury had arranged for a payment to M.P.A.C., Mr. Green’s group. When asked if he paid the preacher group, Mr. King released a statement saying, “I don’t know who contributes to M.P.A.C., but they should get donations for the amazing work that they do.”

Mr. Green declined to say who funded the excursion. “Who paid for it, how it was paid for, how much is inconsequential,” the pastor said. “What’s important is that people who needed to have food had food. People who were interested in advocating against the ban on fur got on the buses.”

“Our people like fur,” Mr. Green added. “I think that they underestimated our opinion on this matter.”

Indeed, the argument caught supporters of animal rights off guard.

“Whether or not it was a lobbyist that tried to create that narrative, it is a narrative,” said Matthew Dominguez, a political adviser for Voters for Animal Rights. “We will not tell them they are wrong.”

At the same time, Voters for Animal Rights has mounted a counteroffensive. A group board member, Jabari Brisport, wrote in an email that he “found it insulting that the fur trade would use my community as a smoke screen to defend this exploitive industry,” and sought other black animal rights activists to help formulate a response.

Mr. Johnson said that while some black New Yorkers may dislike the proposed fur ban, it was hearing from furriers who would lose their jobs that gave him pause. Still, he added that he remained committed to the ban.


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