Video: Shriners Assault ‘Santa’ During Peaceful Circus Protest

For Immediate Release:
December 23, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

St. LouisMoolah Shriners were caught on video this week assaulting two nonviolent protesters who had entered a Shriners meeting to proclaim, “Coal for you for abusing animals in your circus! Drop the animal acts immediately!” Fez-wearing Shriners battered 32-year-old Sasha Zemmel, dressed as Santa, and 40-year-old Kyle Mayberry, who filmed the protest against the Moolah Shrine Circus’ continued use of animals, as they attempted to leave the building. One Shriner reportedly put Zemmel in a chokehold, twisted her arm, and held her against a wall while three or more of them threw Mayberry to the ground, ripping his clothing, and pinned him down. One Shriner kneeled on his back, and another stepped on his hand.

The Shriners kept the protesters in those positions until police arrived and charged the pair with trespassing and disturbing the peace. Zemmel was taken to the hospital for a CT scan and released from there. Mayberry, who is now suffering from severely bruised ribs, was held in jail overnight and released the next morning. The pair plan not only to plead “not guilty” to the charges but also to sue the Shriners for assault.

“It’s no surprise that Shriners who support violently tormenting elephants and other wild animals for circus shows would also assault peaceful protesters,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA stands behind ‘Santa’ and her helper and is more determined than ever to push the Moolah Shrine to drop the animal acts from its circus.”

The Moolah Shrine Circus is among the last remaining shows that still use wild animals who are confined to small crates, kept in shackles, and deprived of any semblance of a natural life. It has partnered with notoriously cruel exhibitors, including Carson & Barnes Circus, which has been cited for more than 100 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act and whose head trainer was caught on video attacking elephants with bullhooks—weapons resembling a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end.

Zemmel is available for interviews about the incident. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind