Hollywood Animal Rights Protesters Get Protested
Many people were very confused as they drove down Hollywood Boulevard on Saturday. There was a full-on protest on both sides of the street, replete with colorful signs, matching T-shirts, chanting, music, and adults wearing large, heavy dog costumes. Some drivers thought it was a protest in favor of animal rights and honked to show support. Other drivers honked because they thought it was a protest against PETA.
It turns out they were both right.
One group protested against puppy mills. The other group said they were not at all affiliated with puppy mills, and they were protesting against PETA. The first group said they were not at all affiliated with PETA.
A few weeks ago, Gary Serignese, a 28-year-old animal-rights activist from Boca Raton, stood in front of Puppy Palace in Hollywood with a sign protesting so-called "puppy mills" (commercial dog breeders) and the stores he believes sell dogs from such places. He was told by police that to organize such a demonstration, he would need a permit. So at the first of this month, Serignese filed for a permit with the Hollywood police. After a 45-minute phone discussion with a police officer, the permit was approved. He and his friend Ghazal Tajalli, a 25-year-old activist from Coral Springs, started organizing friends with text messages and Facebook posts.
A few days later, the owners of Puppy Palace filed for a demonstration permit for the very same day (yesterday). They wanted to organize a protest of their own.
So yesterday, as animal rights advocates held signs decrying puppy mills, Puppy Palace, and any store that sells puppies, counterprotesters stood a few feet away, holding signs of their own. The counterprotesters claimed PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was the true evil party. Their signs had photos of Michael Vick next to the PETA logo and claimed PETA has killed thousands of dogs. Another sign said PETA promotes AIDS.
Serignese and Tajalli said they are not affiliated with PETA in any way. Serignese mentioned he isn't a big fan of PETA himself. He said most of the protesters on his side had never met before yesterday.
Tajalli said nobody should purchase an expensive designer puppy from a store when there are hundreds of thousands of dogs in animal shelters across the country. "There are plenty of puppies in shelters," she said. "Twenty-five percent of puppies in shelters are even purebred."
Raquel Balocco dressed as a Saint Bernard and laid on the sidewalk for much of the afternoon, playing dead. She said she came out to protest because she's done some investigating into puppy mills -- and into Puppy Palace. "The conditions they keep the dogs in are sick," she said. "It's like a factory. It's not natural." As she played dead, protesters around her shouted at cars and pumped their signs in the air. Peeking out from the head of the dog costume, Balocco added: "Nobody has the right to enslave a being against its consent for profit. Puppies are soulful, giving beings."
Casi Fleischman, a 17-year-old high school student from Plantation, was holding a sign a few feet away and wearing a T-shirt that read: