In January, news broke that the mayor of Ridgeland, Mississippi had threatened to withhold more than $100,000 in funding from the local county library system unless they removed a number of books from their stacks — the majority of which dealt with LGBTQ+ themes. From the Mississippi Free Press:
Tonja Johnson, executive director for the Madison County Library System, Johnson said the mayor informed her that no payment was forthcoming. "He explained his opposition to what he called 'homosexual materials' in the library, that it went against his Christian beliefs, and that he would not release the money as the long as the materials were there," the library director said.
Naturally, this pissed off some Furries:
Spearheaded by Soatok, the Furry community crowdfunding campaign managed to raise more than the withheld funds in just two weeks, with donations coming in from nearly 2,500 people:
As Soatok told the Mississippi Clarion Ledger:
"I have friends in Mississippi and I know that this act of bigotry doesn't speak for all Mississippi residents," he said. "So instead of dismissing the entire state because of the actions of one bad politician, I decided to explore the possibility of donating to offset the withheld amount."
"The freedom of speech, and of expression, and of the pursuit of happiness is so deeply intertwined with the American spirit that anyone who loves this country will resist the demands set out by Mayor McGee," Soatok said. "This isn't just a furry sentiment, or an LGBTQ+ sentiment, but an American sentiment."
Granted, it shouldn't technically be legal for a mayor to withhold public funding based on personal religious beliefs. But that issue is still playing out in courts. For now … the Furries win.
Soatok also wrote a detailed narrative about the campaign on his own blog.
Ridgeland Mayor Demands LGBTQ+ Book Purge, Threatens Library Funding [Nick Judin / Mississippi Free Press]
Furries Are Leading the War Against a Book-Banning Mississippi Mayor [Dexter Thomas / Vice]
Furries raise money for libraries after mayor threatens to withhold funds due to LGBTQ+ books [Keisha Rowe / Mississippi Clarion Ledger]