Police Interference With Circus Protest Prompts Complaint

PETA Cites Violation of First Amendment Rights After Officers Prevent Protesters From Telling the Public About Cruelty to Elephants

For Immediate Release:
May 7, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Mount Vernon, N.Y.

In response to an incident on May 2 in which multiple police officers prevented PETA members from exercising their legal right to protest UniverSoul Circus peacefully, PETA filed a complaint today with the Mount Vernon police department. PETA is seeking assurance that police officers will receive training regarding the First Amendment rights of peaceful protesters.

In its complaint, PETA details how police officers refused to allow protesters to stand on the public sidewalk near Hutchinson Field, where the circus was performing. Instead, officers insisted that they stand a block away and across the street, where there was no foot traffic—and where more officers later arrived to set up police barriers on three sides of the small group of protesters, blocking the sidewalk entirely. When a PETA representative carrying no protest sign or leaflets left the area to document that the demonstrators were being obstructed, an officer ordered him to return simply on the grounds that he recognized him as one of the protesters.

“Families consistently tell PETA that they’d never have bought a ticket to a circus if they’d known that the animals were beaten into performing tricks,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman. “Mount Vernon police officers obstructed PETA’s rightful ability to alert the public to UniverSoul Circus’ history of cruelty to elephants, and the group is seeking assurance that peaceful protesters will never again be harassed by police in Hudson Valley.”

Because of police interference, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—was unable to point out to circus attendees that, just last year, an inspection of UniverSoul’s elephant exhibitor, Larry Carden, revealed that elephants with bruised feet were still being forced to stand on concrete. And one elephant’s wound had been covered up with a gray powder called Wonder Dust.

PETA’s complaint is available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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