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University of Arizona Shriners Circus protesters arrested

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Arizona Daily Wildcat - University of Arizona

Circus protesters arrested for trespassing

Nov. 14, 2000

By Maya Schechter

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Students say circus doesn't meet federal standards for animal care

Shrine Protest Three UA students were arrested on charges of trespassing Friday night for protesting animal abuse at a showing of the Shrine Circus - a circus which has been accused of failing to meet the minimal federal standards for the care of animals.

Tucson Police Department arrested Jeff Jensen, a biological anthropology junior; Rebecca Feather, a psychology junior; and Damien Huffer, an anthropology freshman, after they entered the Rodeo Fairgrounds, 4801 S. Sixth Ave., and passed out literature about animal abuse on the circus' private property. The circus rented the land for the weekend, making it private property.

"We were by the pony rides inside when one of the clowns told us the police were coming, so we started to walk back out, but the police got us," Feather said.

The three students were taken to the Pima County Adult Detention Center at 6:45 p.m. and were released a few hours later, with a court date set for later this month.

"(Being arrested) was for a worthy cause, it was just a non-violent protest, Huffer said.

The Shrine Circus exhibitors have been cited by the United States Department of Agriculture for failure to provide veterinary care, adequate shelter, nutritious food and clean water to animals, said the protesters. They have also been accused of failing to handle animals in a manner that ensures public safety.

The circus has been banned in many U.S. cities - but not Tucson, said Reasa Haggard, a political science senior.

Shrine Circus officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

As hundreds of cars drove into the circus parking lot for the 6:30 p.m. show Friday, they were faced with a group of six UA students and two Tucson teen-agers, holding up signs with pictures of animal abuse and chanting "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Animal abuse has got to go!"

Katie Easley, a psychology and political science senior, said that she saw a mix of responses from people, even though they were not allowed to interact with them.

"Some people came up to us afterwards and asked for more information, but others were more negative because they didn't fully understand what we were talking about since they didn't read our fliers," she said.

Haggard said that when the circus show was over, many people told the protesters they were right about the animal abuse.

"We could see the kids in the cars asking their parents what was going on, which is what we wanted to see happen," she said.

Haggard said that she got the group together when she saw a poster about the Shrine Circus coming to Tucson and contacted the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals to learn more background information.

"They had one of the most extensive records for not meeting the USDA standards," Haggard said.

Haggard then contacted UA students involved with PETA, and passed out fliers about the circus protest at Thursday's Students Against Sweatshops lockdown.

Easley said that the circus is the epitome of animal abuse because they are not treated or fed adequately, and have to participate in uncomfortable and unnatural activities.

Bill Anderson, a communication freshman, who participated in the protest, said he agreed.

"Animals doing something their body is not comfortable with is cruel," he said. "Bouncing a ball on their nose is OK, but a bear riding a bicycle is not."

Easley said one of their goals was to make the public more aware of the animal abuse taking place, both before and during the circus performances.

"If we increase awareness, then maybe next time people will stop to think twice about buying tickets," Easley said.

Further Reading:

The Royal Order of Jesters - The Shriners Secret Society Secret Society - 'Mirth is King'

The Shriners - The 'Krafty' Klowns