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Mesquite, Nevada – from www.mesquitecitizen.com – It’s long been a loosely-remembered story in Mesquite’s history that people reminisce about, even those who didn’t live here at the time.

It’s a tale of a group of area residents that were up in arms when a pornography store opened in town under false pretenses. Local resident and one of the founders of Help Our Moral Environment (H.O.M.E.) organization, Deena Hoff gave a presentation to the Mesquite City Council Tuesday, Mar. 27, explaining the origins and history of the group that formed in 1993.

“We still hold the record for the longest-running, non-union picket line,” Hoff remarked during her presentation.

The presentation was part of the Council’s declaration of the week of Mar. 25-31 as H.O.M.E. Week.

“The reason H.O.M.E. was organized was because a couple businessmen from Las Vegas decided to move their pornography business to Mesquite. At the time, there were about 1,900 people here,” Hoff said as she began tracing the group’s history.

“They had businesses in Las Vegas and Henderson and were going to use money from them to fuel their business here. They applied for a business license for an office supply store. As soon as the license was handed to them, they turned it back in as a pornography store.”

Hoff explained that many people in the community were upset because they had moved to the area in order to have a safe, pleasant environment in which to raise their families. Almost immediately after the store opened, local residents formed the H.O.M.E. organization.

“That has been our continuing, ongoing, forever theme; to help the moral environment of Mesquite,” Hoff commented.

“We’re still here and we’re still keeping our eye on things,” she added.

Explaining that many people have moved here since 1996 without knowing the true origins of the group, Hoff said she wanted to renew the group’s history in peoples’ minds with the presentation.

Hoff included pictures from the days when the picket lines occupied areas around the business and remarked that “we were going to keep them going until the business was gone.”

Even when the group experienced 17 straight days of temperatures averaging 114 degrees in July 1995, the picketers never left the store site. Wind storms kicked up that blew out car windows and rooftops were damaged. The picketers remained.

“We called it the Million Dollar Picket Line because 88,000 manhours were spent on the picket lines. That represents 44 years of eight hour work days,” Hoff said.

She explained that the group “never wanted to break the law.” The picketers stayed outside a line painted on the surrounding sidewalks so they could not be accused of trespassing on the business’s property. Police were constantly monitoring the group to ensure no trouble broke out.

People came from all over the United States and some from foreign countries to participate in the picket lines. “People traveled individually almost one and three quarter million miles to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Hoff commented. “That’s the equivalent of 316 round trips to New York.”

She told the audience that at one time the business owner tried to sue six people that were most involved in forming the picket lines. “It took about a year before they decided to drop the lawsuit. In the beginning, they said they would drop the lawsuit if we would just take down the picket lines. What they didn’t understand was that it didn’t matter if the six of us had told the others to take down the picket line. It would have gone on.”

Saying that the store eventually didn’t have any business because of the picketers, she added that “we wrote down license plate numbers of people that came to the store. We didn’t do anything with them.”

Hoff read a quote from Margaret Mead that said, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world: indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

She described a phone call that she received on Mar. 27, 1996 with the person telling her, “you might want to get up to the picket line. There might be something going down.” A group of 100 picketers had gathered that day in front of the store. “Some police officers, the FBI, and the building inspector went in to the store and flipped over the sign to say the store was closed. There was a loud ‘hurrah,'” she said.

Hoff said that eventually the two pornography stores the owner had in Henderson and Las Vegas went into bankruptcy because he was using the money from them to help keep the Mesquite store open.

The store building was dismantled and hauled away shortly after it was shut down. “It was pure pleasure watching it being hauled off like that,” Hoff said with a play on the store’s name ‘Pure Pleasure.’

At the end, 7,000 people had walked the picket line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 31 straight months giving the group the right to brag about being the longest-running non-union picket line.

Hoff commented that 10 years after the whole incident was over, the group embedded a plaque into the sidewalk at the picket line location to honor the organization.

And now, other than the memories, the legendary stories, and the smaller, current H.O.M.E. organization, that is what remains of a group of people who stood up for what they believed in.

from www.thespectrum.com – Dena Hoff, president of Help Our Moral Environment (HOME), detailed that stand by the community in a Power Point presentation during the Mesquite City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday.

“So many people have moved here since 1996,” Hoff said. “And so many say, ‘what are you talking about?’ when we talk about the struggle against the porn shop.

“A couple of business owners in Las Vegas moved their porn business to Mesquite when there were 1,900 people here. They came here and applied to the city for an office supplies business license. When they turned the license back into the city it was for a porn store.

“The community was really upset. People moved here because this was an environment for their children and families to be safe in. HOME was immediately formed.”

HOME members, united by concern over the secondary effects the business and similar businesses posed to the community, decided to picket Pure Pleasure, the adult bookstore. Volunteers joined HOME walking the picket line from Sept. 1993 until March 28, 1996. Approximately 7,000 people contributed time to HOME’s cause.

“The picket line fought the elements,” Hoff said. “We said we’d picket 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the store was gone. There were 17 straight days in July and August 1995 when the average high was 114 degrees. We battled strong winds.

“We were called the Million-Dollar Picket Line and people spent 88,000 man-hours picketing the porn store. That’s 44 years of an eight-hour job.

“We were told the picket signs could not be derogatory. We wanted to educate people about the dangerous secondary effects from porn. People individually travel 1 ¾ million miles to exercise their First Amendment speech rights.”

Owners of the sexually-oriented business tried to trespass picketers and targeted mostly older marchers, Hoff said. The business owners sued six of HOME’s leaders, known as the Select Six, and said they’d drop the lawsuit if the picket line went away. The lawsuit disappeared after a year, but the picketers remained.

“We had generations of families who came to picket,” Hoff said. “They thought it was important to make a stand. We took license plate numbers of cars in the parking lot, although we never did anything with them. There was no business there because we were guarding the line.”

One of the license plates documented ended up leading police to a murder suspect.

Local businesses and businesses in southern Utah supported the picketers with water, pizza, blankets and a phone. Protesters had Dutch oven dinners and anniversary meals.

“On March 27, 1996 I got a call to go to the picket line because there might be something going down,” Hoff said. “We had 100 people waiting to see if the store would close. Police, the city and the FBI shut it down. The building was three trailers that were rented and put together. The owners were not making rent payments and they lost their stores in Las Vegas because they thought they could outlast us. It was pure pleasure watching them drive off.”

The HOME picket line was the longest-running, non-union picket line in U.S. history, Hoff said.

“We like to stay out in the open so you know we’re still there,” she said. “We keep an eye on things.”

Council, following the presentation, approved a proclamation declaring the week of March 25-31 as HOME Week in a unanimous vote.

“We appreciate all the mayors’ and councils’ support that they have always given HOME,” Hoff said.

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