Animal Friends, Bark in the Park and Protestors?

Hey.  This morning, Ledcat and I rolled out of bed early to head up to North Park to celebrate Bark in the Park with Animal Friends.  Mona was ecstatic about it, but the boys stayed home. 

When we arrived, we saw that the police had detained two individuals and word in the park was that they were protestors there about the geese massacre.  We were unable to confirm that fact, so I thought I'd throw the incident out to see if anyone knows exactly what went down and why?  I have my suspicions, but I'm waiting for details before I share them with the world.

The event was nice.  Saw some old and new friends and we met a dog named Sushi that could be Mona's older sister.  In fact, someone else mistook Mona for Sushi.  Mona didn't care — there was petting involved.  Mona also made a paw print painting for the fridge. 

Mona participated in the tennis ball activity where she was supposed to “choose” one either by sniffing it or picking it up in her mouth.  She opted to claim them all by laying  down on top of the entire pile.  When it came time to claim her prize, she stuck her head in the box and came up empty.  So I picked out a cute little plaid purse that squeaked.  She approved and brought it home where Xander promptly claimed it as his “man bag” and has had it with him at all times ever since.  Deus tried to take it, but Xander stood his ground.  It coordinates better with his ensemble anyway.

Anyway, I hope someone can clue me in on the police activity….

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  • Hi Sue,
    I'm not sure what your “suspicions” were but I was one of the people allegedly protesting at the Bark in the Park yesterday. There were actually four of us there and we were basically leafleting peacefully in the area, handing out a very inoffensive flyer asking people to call County officials and demand that there be no more geese slaughters. Two people stood on the grass at the far side of the road and held a banner. No one was blocking, harassing, anything… I handed out leaflets and was getting a very positive reaction from people, including AF volunteers who were there.
    Suddenly we heard that one of the people holding the banner had been grabbed by police, put in a pain hold, handcuffed and shoved in a police car. Police said AF had a permit for the area and that they didn't want us there. We had to leave or be arrested.
    We later heard AF executives were claiming we had “disrupted” the event, “blocked the entrance” and “ruined the work of AF volunteers.” This is how much it was disrupted: the Exec Director of AF was standing in full view of everything that happened and never even noticed we were there the whole time until one of our group went and got him to get confirmation that “Animal Friends” was actually trying to get members of a small animal organization kicked out of a public park, for leafleting about an event that happened there just a month ago and could very easily happen there again.
    Animal Friends and similar organizations refuse to take a stand on these real-life issues of animal cruelty – or rather the ones where they don't stand a chance of enhancing their image (as in big “rescues” from animal hoarders etc.). That is because they know where their interests lie. And sticking up for a few hundred geese (or whatever the issue may be) is not as important it would seem as having friends in high County places.
    For the record, our organization did try and speak at the County Council meeting last week. Out of the maybe 15 speakers registered to speak at that meeting, our rep was the one whose name mysteriously disappeared from the list and the Council meeting was wrapped up very suddenly before she had a chance to object. That we half expected. But that the long arm of political interest should extend as far as Bark in the Park and that AF executives would be willing to lie and exaggerate to justify their action (trying to get someone arrested without even making the effort to speak to them directly), is not something we were banking on.
    As that “nasty” leaflet ended, I hope you “enjoy(ed) your Bark in the Park!”

  • Oh and by the way… the person handcuffed was finally let go with a citation after we refused to leave without him. I think that was because they just could not come up with an arrestable offense to use on him, and because the rest of us were calm enough that they couldn't use that either as grounds for carting people away. It did seem like this was a pretty exciting day for Allegheny County police though. Guess they don't get to see that much action as a rule.

  • Sarah,
    Thanks for the details. My suspicions were pretty close to what happened — Bark in the Park seemed like an ideal opportunity to educate a nice-sized, sympathetic crowd about the situation with the geese. We also guesses it was a peaceful situation. We briefly considered the possibility that Voices for Animals was protesting the decision of AF to hold the event at North Park, but that seemed less likely.
    See next comment for an official statement from Animal Friends.
    Sue

  • This came across a dog rescue list to which I belong (www.pghdogs.com) The author is Bob Fragasso, a AF board member who gave permission to disseminate.
    I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this, nor am I going to argue
    perceptions of peacefulness or disruption. But, let's put today's events in
    context.
    Animal Friends' staff and volunteers spent hundreds of hours preparing for
    one of the major events of AF's year. These protest folks showed up and took
    over the entrance to the event giving the impression that they were part of
    the event. That was inappropriate and, as your narrative indicates, David
    Swisher offered told them that they could have had a free table (venders pay for
    those) to distribute their literature. However, as they showed up
    unannounced, they were not welcome to disrupt the event that everyone had so worked
    hard to prepare and is so important to AFs' year. They refused to leave and
    the police questioned them regarding necessary permits to stage such a
    protest. They had none. They were dealt with – by the police, not AFs – according
    to regulation.
    AFs is a “welfare: not a “rights” organization. While many of us, including
    many staff and board, myself included as you know, were very involved in the
    geese killing protest, we did that as individuals. AFs has no place
    protesting to county government as an organization. We house and place unwanted,
    neglected and abused animals. We don't protest fur or other animal rights
    issues as an organization. How do these folks rationalize that they have the
    right to pervert an organization's event into a special platform for their
    views.
    Peg, you know my position on animal rights – and welfare – but if I had been
    there when they staged their protest, I would have been much more outraged
    than even staff was over the actions of this presumptuous and entitled few
    subverting the hard work of many others.
    Sincerely,
    Bob
    P.S. Feel free to disseminate this as my opinion on today's event to whomever

  • I understand that AF does not define itself as “animal rights” organization, but it bothers me when people peg peaceful protestors as a threat to the hard work of an organization and its volunteers. Frankly, the lack of signage to find the event was more frustrating than the peaceful presence of any protestors. I think anyone (mostly individuals, not Bob) characterizing a banner and some leaflets as disruptive is misleading at best and reminiscent of the attitude of an Administration that anti-war protests somehow distract the troops from accomplishing a Mission we already allegedly completed several years ago. Or Beth Pittinger telling us that a lawful protest at a private residence is wrong.
    Do we really want to set aside a little patch of grass, maybe in Finleyville, for the “Free Speech Zone” on all issues? Is that the sign of a healthy democracy or the public equivalent of burying our heads in the sand?
    It has been suggested (again not by Bob) that the protest may have had a negative impact on children attending the event. There were at least half a dozen rescue groups there with detailed information on animal abuse and neglect, information that children also needed to be shielded from at their parent's discretion. Not to mention the dozens of current and former shelter dogs and the many, many snippets of conversation I overheard about their stories.
    The event was very nice and it is unfortunate that attendees were denied the opportunity to learn about the geese massacre. It is equally unfortunate that Animal Friends' volunteers and staff would interpret the protest as a subversion of their hard work. I certainly am not naive enough to blame the event organizers for a protest that makes me uncomfortable (this one didn't). I would hope most adults aren't that naive either.
    Sarah, again, thanks for sharing your story. We are very big fans of Animal Friends and hope that this would lead to productive dialogues around the region about the poor geese.

  • He really does carry it around the house as if it is his baby. He tenderly put it in his chair last night while he slept on the floor (that's not unusual).
    I guess we really do turn 'em gay.

  • Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Sue.
    To me, a lot hinges on the accuracy of the officer having used a “pain hold” and then “shoving” the protester into a police car. That is, was it an Officer Hlavac situation?
    Also, of course, the degree to which the geese folk were causing a disruption or blocking an entrance, as opposed to just earning the wrath of nervous busybodies at AF who don't have a tolerance for spontanaity and cooperation.

  • Unfortunately, I don't know. We did not see the incident at all. When we arrived, one person was handcuffed in a vehicle. Actually, Ledcat was the one who noticed. I was focusing on Mona.

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