Maryland Girl Scouts Too Black To Have Opinions On Animal Abuse, We Guess
Somebody needs to let the people of Cecil County, Maryland, know how the plot of an uplifting Capraesque movie is supposed to go: An intrepid local journalist uncovers a scandalous bad thing, the Powers that Be don't do much of anything about it, and then when little kids take up the cause, everything gets fixed, and maybe even the bad guys are so moved by the kids' innocent idealism that they vow to turn from evil and do good things, and then a lesbian gets her wings. But that's not what happened this time at all! Instead, Girl Scouts testifying against awful conditions at a local animal shelter were rewarded by shelter supporters yelling racial insults at the girls, which would really make a lousy ending to a movie. We're still hoping there's another reel to run where the plucky girls triumph after all. This story's not as bad as that Idaho guy who non-racistly slapped a baby on a plane a couple years back, but it's pretty damn bad.
So the dealio in Cecil County is that the county contracts for its animal control services with a place called "A Buddy For Life," and a local muckraking journalist has run several stories on the gross conditions at the shelter -- for instance, a county councilor who's a licensed veterinarian paid a surprise visit and "found unremoved feces, odors and many dogs with serious “mange” and other skin conditions. 'It was a mess,' he said of the facility." The paper also ran a more recent story saying that the shelter had persuaded welfare recipients to fulfill their "welfare-to-work" requirements by working at the shelter as "volunteers," and that despite the fact the county pays $60,000 a month to the shelter, the place spent suspiciously small amounts on food.
Local station WMAR reported Tuesday that the girls of Chesapeake Bay Girl Scout Troop 176, horrified by the stories, decided they wanted to do something about it, so they went to speak at the April 29 meeting of the Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission; during the public comment period, several of the girls asked questions about conditions at the shelter. Yay kids, getting involved and trying to do some good!
Then after the meeting, while the girls were standing outside with their homemade "Be Kind To Animals" signs, a bunch of buddies of A Buddy For Life decided to yell some racist insults at them, because obviously anyone who's against the shelter is The Enemy:
"They were saying, 'Go back to Baltimore, where you belong,' and they started pointing out me and my sisters," said 13 year old Arianna Spurlock, who is African-American.
"I was like sad and mad at the same time," Amayah said.
"They were calling us, like animals and stuff," Arianna said. "And I didn't really know why because if they are calling us animals, aren't they supposed to be helping animals?"
ThinkProgress helpfully points out that Baltimore is over an hour away from Cecil County, and none of the girls are from there. They didn't even burn anything down, for heaven's sake!
One of the male co-leaders of the Girl Scout troop can also be seen defending the girls, trying to get the other adults to knock it the hell off:
You guys, no racial comments, okay?" he's heard telling the adults on the video. "Saying that they belong in Baltimore because they're black, that is wrong. Please don't say that okay?"
During the meeting, co-director of A Buddy for Life, Jen Callahan, told commissioners to ignore the girls, since she believed they had been coached by their troop leader, Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich, who has had her own complaints about the shelter's lack of response to an animal neglect case that she had reported. Callahan said at the meeting, "The Girl Scouts came out and had some things to say, I understand that they were coached with what to say," which prompted someone in the audience to shout "Hey, they're kids!" Mitchell-Werbrich says that she didn't coach the kids, and the girls say that going to the county meeting was their own idea, which doesn't seem too much of a stretch considering that kids do tend to want to do something when they hear about animals in lousy conditions.
In an email, Callahan denied any connection between A Buddy For Life and the adults yelling at the girls, saying "A Buddy for Life, Inc. cannot control the words or actions of citizens that attended that meeting. A Buddy for Life, Inc. does not condone the behavior that was on display after the meeting." So she's covered her bases!
In any case there may still be a satisfying Hollywood ending to the story; A Buddy for Life is under investigation by the county, and has faced sanctions from the Maryland Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners for operating without a state license. And the girl scouts are still quite sure they want to keep fighting for animals, and they're not too bothered by some shouty, racist alleged "grownups," either:
"All people have the same rights, so everyone should be treated fairly and the same," Arianna said.
"We, as kids, we always were taught, if you didn't have anything nice to say don't say it at all," Lily said. "They should have done that."
The girl scouts have also gotten an official apology from Cecil County Executive Tari Moore, who said that threatening behavior won't be tolerated on county property. She's also offered to give the girls a tour of the county administration building, which should be right up there with a field trip to a cardboard box factory in terms of excitement, but it's a nice gesture.
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