City of Oakland and Arena Pay One-Half Million Dollar Settlement for Free Speech Lawsuit Brought By Ringling Bros. Protesters
Oakland, Calif. – August 7, 2012 – Today, the founders of Humanity Through Education, a Bay Area grassroots organization, announced their victory in a free speech lawsuit brought against the City of Oakland, the County of Alameda, the Oakland Arena management and the Oakland Police Department for violating First Amendment rights of protesters at Ringling Bros. Circus. The settlement resulted in the upholding of the victims’ free speech rights and a $500,000 settlement. Plaintiffs included Pat Cuviello and Deniz Bolbol. Ms. Bolbol was represented by the San Francisco law firm of Gonzalez & Leigh.
At issue was the illegal suppression of the activists’ free speech/press rights through the illegal arrest of the activists after they videotaped a Ringling Bros. Circus elephant handler beating a chained young elephant while at the Oakland Arena in 2004. Humanity Through Education’s founders discovered, from a private January 2005 email sent by Ringling’s Vet Tech Deborah Fahrenbruck to Ringling’s general manager, that Ringling attempted to block the activists’ videotaping in Oakland in 2004 “by putting up a tent wall.” Subsequently, the following year (August 2005) the activists were illegally arrested at the Circus in Oakland for videotaping the treatment of the animals while standing in the same public area where they videotaped the elephant beating in 2004. After nearly six years of litigation, the settlement includes a permanent injunction protecting the activists’ free speech/press rights to videotape and distribute informational leaflets at the Oakland Arena.
Tomorrow night, Wednesday, August 8, 2012, Humanity Through Education will host a large protest at the opening night of the Ringling Bros. Circus at the Oakland Arena, the circus’ first stop in the Bay Area. Pictures of Ringling Bros. Circus training of baby elephants will be on display and behind-the-scenes video of Ringling elephant handlers beating the animals will be shown on a large screen. The Ringling elephant handlers videotaped beating the elephants are the same handlers working the elephants in Oakland this week.
WHEN: WED, AUGUST 8, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Oakland Arena, in front of ticket booths
In November 2011, Ringling paid $270,000 – the largest fine ever paid by a circus – to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is the Federal law that provides minimum protection for animals used by circuses. Ringling did not even meet these lowly, insufficient standards.
Contrary to Ringling’s claims that only positive reinforcement is used to train the elephants, the video documentation and Ringling’s court testimony reveal that Ringling’s standard operating procedure is to hit, hook, beat, electro-shock and whip elephants to get them to perform unnatural circus tricks, such as standing on their heads, hind legs or holding each other’s tails. Ringling’s owner Ken Feld admitted in court, under the threat of perjury, that all his elephant handlers strike the elephants and he is “not aware of any other way to have the elephants perform.”
Local humane societies, including the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, the East Bay SPCA in Oakland, the Marin Humane Society and the Sacramento SPCA have called for a boycott of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, citing accusations of the company’s abuse of animals.
Humanity Through Education is a San Francisco Bay Area based nonprofit organization dedicated to education to promote humanity, compassion and a greater appreciation and understanding for all. Our members have been documenting the living conditions and treatment of animals in circuses and educating patrons about these conditions for more than 24 years. Additional information is available at RinglingAbusesAnimals.com & HumanityThroughEducation.com.
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