DA SMOKE-IN ARTICLE
Protesters gather to oppose state smoking ban
By Codell Rodriguez, The Southern
Saturday, March 1, 2008 11:46 PM CST- Erik Lind drove all the way from to show his disdain for ' statewide smoking ban.
Jon Hemminghaus, owner of Wounded Rig Fiberglass and Gel Coat Repair in , hosted a protest at noon Saturday against the ban that began in January with stump speeches, greeters in Revolutionary War costumes waving the American flag - and smoking. While the smoking took place outside, Hemminghaus said anyone was welcome to smoke inside his establishment.
"This is the only thing you can do to get noticed," Hemminghaus said. "You can sign a petition and write a letter, but it doesn't do you a bit of good."
Lind, who said he was a contributor to a smokers' rights group called force.org, said he made the drive from because he was inspired by Hemminghaus' willingness to fight for smokers' rights.
"It's a fairly rare opportunity, and I wanted to be a part of it," Lind said. "Maybe it will grow from here."
The protest didn't gain much attention from law enforcement, although Hemminghaus did say some police officers checked on the parking situation earlier.
Hemminghaus carried a cigar with him throughout the protest, despite not being a smoker. He said the protest was more about the government telling people what they can and can't do.
"That flag out there," Hemminghaus said referring to the American Flag. "A lot of people can remember when that stood for freedom."
Hemminghaus thanked people for attending and let others take the stage, including a representative from force.org, which doesn't show up as a Web site in a Google search. The representative encouraged those in attendance to fight the ban and gave examples of reasons to fight the smoking ban, including an allegation that the smoking ban that Mayor enacted in New York City in 2003 forced several casinos to file for bankruptcy. However, according to casino directory www.casinocity. com, there are no casinos in .
For Hemminghaus, the main purpose for the protest was to let the government know that he won't let the smoking ban inflict peoples' rights.
"Smoking doesn't really affect me," Hemminghaus said. "It's just taking rights away."