PETA is back again trying to place a large statue of a crippled chicken designed by The New Yorker artist Harry Bliss on the corner of Fourth and Market Streets Downtown. The statue is, of course, a direct attack on KFC in its hometown. Whatever your stance regarding the ongoing battle between PETA and KFC, bigger issues of free speech are coming into play here.
The animal rights group originally petitioned the city to display the statue for three months in July at one of six locations, but was denied and a 45 day moratorium on such permits was put in place. In retrospect, it might have been easier for the city to have permitted the display and be done with it, but here we are debating anew. Now, PETA is saying it was denied free speech in the latest round.
What are your thoughts about free speech in the public realm? Sure, this isn’t a protester standing temporarily on the sidewalk, its an object left temporarily on the sidewalk. Call it art or advertising or intentional provocation or whatever else, its implications are interesting for how we interact in the city.
Whether you agree or disagree, should all sides be treated the same? Where do we draw the line? Consider the recent KFC campaign to fill potholes for the city. PETA then offered to pay twice as much per pothole but the city politely “passed” on the offer. If references to KFC on the statue were removed, and the message changed from an attack on one company to a practice, would that change how we see the chicken? How do we treat other groups or companies who want to place something on the public way?
In the end, the PETA vs KFC battle is going to be a long lasting one and it’s not a useful function of government to try to silence it. It does, however, make for some interesting discussions when government gets dragged into the middle of the fight. Find more info on the issue at the C-J. Broken Sidewalk takes no stance on the debate as it’s beyond the scope of our coverage here.