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Free Speech Or Racism? Rural General Store Becomes Flashpoint In Culture War

The Huntington Country Store, in Huntington, Massachusetts, has become a flashpoint in the culture war over where to draw the line between free speech and hate speech. Photo Credit: Pixabay photo illustration
The Huntington Country Store, in Huntington, Massachusetts, has become a flashpoint in the culture war over where to draw the line between free speech and hate speech. Photo Credit: Copyright 2020 Google Maps

A small town is being torn apart since the Main Street general store began posting controversial opinions about COVID-19 online.

The Huntington Country Store at the heart of town has been a hot topic in rural Huntington where people seem divided on how to react to the owners and the protests that have sprung up around them.

Is this about freedom of speech?

Is this about racism?

Is this a tempest in a teapot?

In late August a protest was held outside of the store organized by “No Hate Huntington.” A counter-protest popped up for “Free Speech.” The event was peaceful but heated. Many pro-Trump signs were brandished.

Discord began brewing in Huntington - a town of about 2,000 people - over the summer when owners of one of the town’s few retail stores referred to coronavirus as “China coronavirus” online.

People were swift to condemn the term and asked the owners to remove the offending language.

Meanwhile, there were others who defended the rights of owners Becky and Randy Butler to use whatever language they choose.

The debate wound up effecting nearby Williamsburg General Store. The owners put out a Facebook post clarifying that the Williamsburg store is not associated with the Huntington shop. The businesses disassociated in 2006. 

In community forums, Huntington residents said they are getting tired of the fighting and do not want the Huntingont General Store to go out of business.

The Butlers have decided to stand firm on their position against China. In a long letter to the public, the owners explain their displeasure with China’s national response to the virus. 

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