21 March 2017

Ostrich Festival Protest Report, March 2017

“The fact that they attempted to silence us and marginalize us only served to fire us up and make us even more determined.” - Robert Franklin, Festival Protest Organizer

This year, United Poultry Concerns campaigned with Arizona Vegan Animal Liberation Activists to protest the Chandler Ostrich Festival ostrich races sponsored by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce. Links posted on www.upc-online.org/ostriches document our 2017 campaign, and we thank Robert Franklin and his group for their fantastic festival protest!

Robert’s report below describes the protesters’ experience with the Chandler police department. and festivalgoers’ response to their call to end the ostrich races and all animal exploitation activities at the festival once and for all. – UPC Editor


 

From “Rough Start” to “Fired Up and Determined!”

Protest Friday March 10, 2017. 6:00 - 8:00pm

Friday’s Protest got off to a rough start. Despite long talks with the Chandler Police Department days before the festival, Friday night I was told we could only protest on a specific corner which I assumed would be where lots of people would see us. Wrong. They placed us in a “freedom of speech area.” Their words, not ours.

The area was behind the VIP tent. Even though we were right next to the fair, no one came by and the large VIP tent blocked our view of the only entrance in sight. We found this very unsatisfactory. We were not only pushed off and hidden in a corner, but with the ropes they had put up to “corral” us into, we felt like part of an exhibit set up by the organizers. They even had silly signs marking the area as the “freedom of speech area.”

So with all this, I decided to speak with my Chandler PD contact and ask for a change. He told me they would have a better situation for us on Saturday and Sunday. We agreed to protest in the same area Friday night, reluctantly, but I felt it better not to create a lot of trouble on day 1. Because of all the delays and confusion, we did not get the protest started until 6:00pm. However, we decided to extend the time and stayed until 8:00pm. It went really well. Many activists got to meet each other and discuss activism and inspire others to become more involved. The fact that they attempted to silence us and marginalize us only served to fire us up and make us even more determined. We had 10 people show up, which for activism in the far east valley on a Friday night is very good.

One of the highlights of the evening was when a reporter from the East Valley Tribune came by and took pictures and interviewed us to get our opinions. I have not located the article yet, if it was published, but the activists felt empowered to have their voices heard in defense of the animals exploited at the Chandler Ostrich Festival.

Protesters holding signs Saturday night

Protest Saturday March 11, 2017. 2:00 - 6:00pm

Saturday was a much better day. After getting up at 5am to take care of my animals and rushing off to the animal sanctuary to volunteer there, I made it back to the festival by noon. This time I found our police contact right away and asked to see what changes were made for where we could protest. They’d enlarged our area slightly, but we were still behind a massive tent and roped in. I told the officer (politely) this simply won’t do. He explained to me that the festival promoters were not willing to move us to any other place. So I began to question our right to freedom of speech and assembly on public space. Knowing that the entire park had been rented out for this “private” event, we didn’t have much to go on. So I asked what about the sidewalk? Surely this is public space. He was reluctant to admit it, but I pushed on saying that the event promoters could not ban people from a public sidewalk. So we got our space!

We now secured a major street corner where the majority of attendees would be coming into the park. I quickly updated the Facebook page and contacted as many activists as I could to let them know the new location, and posted someone at the old location to direct people where we would be. Saturday was a very hot day and there was no shade, with temperatures in the 90s. We brought 10 gallons of ice water for people to fill their personal bottles, and lots of sunscreen. Saturday saw 25 protesters, from 5 different animal rights organizations.

The turnout was great and the outreach was much better at our new location. Easily over a 1000 cars passed by on their way to the park, and many had to slow down to a stop on the corner giving them plenty of time to read every sign. We even had 3 separate families pull over and tell us “thank you for being here,” saying they had no idea that the festival abused animals and decided to go somewhere else that was “more ethical.” Countless others said they would not go to the ostrich races portion, stating there are a lot of fun things to do at the festival that don’t involve animals.

Protesters holding signs on Saturday

Protest Sunday March 12, 2017. 11:00am-1:00pm

Sunday’s protest was just as great in terms of outreach, and we had many cars pass us on their way to the event. There seemed to be a lot of public support for our cause. Maybe this is why the event promoters started to get pushy. They harassed several of the protesters who had to park in the festival parking. This was an unfortunate necessity for many, as the nearest free parking was over a mile away. They even got physical with one of the protesters, attempting to rip his sign from his hands. This incident sparked a yelling match between activists and parking staff. However, I reminded the activists that our fight was with the animal abusers and the organization that promotes the abuse, not the parking staff. The police did come and speak with the parking staff and never with us about the incident. Another activist who was also harassed did go and talk with the parking staff after things had cooled off, to smooth things over. The rest of the protest went well. We had 16 people show up and 6 of them traveled from Tucson to be with us.

Protesters holding signs on Sunday morning

Scheduled protest Sunday March 12th 2017 4:00-6:00pm

Our Sunday afternoon protest was great. 12 people came to this one - many new faces and for some, this was their first protest. We made good connections and friends over the long weekend. People left feeling accomplished that we had stood up against violence and exploitation. We got word that these same animals (the ostriches, zebras and camels) are to race at another venue here in Phoenix on March 25th. That protest has already been planned and we will be able to re-purpose our signs to take a stand there as well.

Protesters holding signs on Sunday evening

Thank you, Karen and UPC, for all your help. We look forward to working with you again.

Robert Franklin, Ostrich Festival Protest Organizer
Arizona Vegan Animal Liberation Activists