So I am cruising around the internet, looking about to see what is going on in the world, and I come across this link to “CopBlock”, which is an article (link) about a couple that was arrested for keeping chickens in Tawas, Michigan.
Now my first instinct was to scream about the illegality of such a thing.
I mean Michigan has a “right to farm” act right? Nope. Well it does, but if you remember this article (link), the state of Michigan has decided that it wants to suppress peoples right to provide for themselves and has taken the position that this law is only intended to protect large scale farming operations in rural areas…and the courts have supported that position.
Then I noticed that the couple was charged with a “junk and blight” ordinance, and I thought maybe Tawas doesn’t actually have an anti chicken ordinance and they were being railroaded. So I looked up Tawas city code. Sure enough, under Article IV Nuisances, article 8.93 item 15 lists: “The keeping of farm animals such as cattle, horse, swine, rabbits, sheep, goats or poultry in or adjacent to residential zoned districts.” Item 3 lists “junk”, but I figure that was probably a misrepresentation by the press in order to create some hype around the situation. Either way, it is illegal to keep poultry in Tawas, Michigan.
My next thought was that this is a code violation. Isn’t that a citation and fine thing? Not in Tawas it isn’t. Under their code (link) the city issues a notice and if you don’t request a hearing within the allotted time (typically 14 days) or abate the situation yourself; the city can abate the infraction, charge you for the pleasure and then fine you up to $500 and jail you for up to 90 days to boot. So while the city wasn’t exactly playing nice on the arrest versus issuing a summons to court front, they also were not outside the law.
The one place (legally) that the city seems to be out of line in this matter, is that Theresa Hurst (the chicken keeping criminal) claims that she repeatedly requested a hearing with city council during the 14 day grace period and was ignored. So the city gets an “F” for due process.
Now that we have those base facts cleared up, lets look at the reality of this.
Tawas, Michigan is on the wrong side of history. Folks, living and being able to provide for yourself are fundamental rights. There is nothing more basic to existence than food and no person should be required by law to seek nourishment from others. There is no grey area here and Tawas along with every other community that restricts reasonable food production on your own property is wrong, plain and simple.
To further that wrong side of history, this is yet another town in Michigan that is going against the national trend in our fair country of allowing more and more urban farming. This trend is growing out of a very basic need. People are starving with full bellies in our cities because nutritious food is just not available enough (in poor neighborhoods especially) unless people produce it for themselves.
Because of these two things and because I believe it is a man’s (or woman’s as this case shows) responsibility to refuse to recognize an unjust law. So our hats are off to you and your husband, Theresa Hurst! Your civil disobedience is a just response to this ridiculous city code that does not serve the people of your city.
The negative side of this whole thing is they did get arrested, they do have a court date pending and if you watch the second video on the “copblock” link, the city council and mayors office are now engaged in what would be a hilarious tug of war if it were not for the fact that these buffoons are supposed to be running a city.
As per usual I think that some support is in order. So if you feel like letting the city of Tawas know how ridiculous they are, drop them a line.
City of Tawas corporation
When you get done with that, go grow something.