PETA, Last Chance for Animals, and other activists were downtown at the Staples Center last night to protest the opening of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. They called for a boycott of the circus based on the disturbing photos that had been turned over to PETA by an industry whistleblower. PETA is now using these photos to file a complaint with the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) against Ringling Bros. to have their exhibitor license revoked.
The group of a little over one hundred protesters were spread out across all corners of 11th and Figueroa and in front of the Staples Center box office. They carried graphic signs with baby elephants splayed on the ground or chained to their cage and called out to the children waiting with their families: "Do you love animals? Don't go to the circus!" Protest leaders also tried to appeal to Spanish-speaking adults, saying "Los entrenadores abusan animales."
Linda Hogan, ex-wife of wrestler Hulk Hogan, took up a bullhorn and tried to engage the crowd: "The circus is a great thing, as long as we don't abuse animals to do it."
Mayra, who was there to see the circus with three friends, was watching the protest line and having second thoughts. She said, "It's good that they're doing it. It makes me not want to go."
Other onlookers were less affected. Tony was waiting with his wife and two children to buy tickets in front of the box office. He looked out at the protesters and said, "This is the first time I'm hearing about it. I'm still digesting it all, and you have to wonder how much of it is really true."
The activist group got a second wind when actress and Daily Show correspondent Olivia Munn showed up to join them. She posed for pictures, signed her book, and helped pass out leaflets to people getting in line for the show. Earlier this year, Munn had posed naked for a PETA advertisement to boycott the circus. The billboard is up on the Sunset Strip right now.
Gene, who normally doesn't get involved in animal rights issues, said he heard about the protest through Olivia Munn's blog. "After watching the video, it's obvious how wrong it is. After coming to this, I can see that this is a right cause."
Most families were not deterred from their show last night, but a handful turned around and walked away. One family with two young children left the Staples Center after their daughter noticed the signs. "My little girl kept telling me about it, so I just decided to do the right thing," explained the mother. She then turned to her daughter and asked, "Feels good, huh?"