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Ringling Bros Circus Protest Interviews with Pat Cuviello and Deniz Bolbol, 8/17/11: video
On August 17th, opening night of the Ringling Brothers Circus in San Jose, nearly a hundred activists gathered to protest and to inform circus-goers about the cruelty involved when wild animals are forced to live in small cages and perform for audiences across the country. In the first video here, Pat Cuviello of Humanity Through Education discusses the history of demonstrations for circus animals in Northern California. In the second video, Deniz Bolbol of Humanity Through Education discusses the mistreatment of elephants while she videorecords Ringling's animals over a wall at the San Jose arena.
Pat Cuviello has been organizing protests at Bay Area and Central Valley circuses since 1988. Some of the earliest demos may have included just a couple people trying to educate circus-goers as they came and left. In 1994, after a circus elephant in Honolulu killed her trainer and escaped, only to be shot down in the street, the numbers of those participating in circus demos across the nation increased. Local demonstrations have grown to as many as a hundred or more protesters in the last few years.
Pat has been arrested in Stockton in 2006, Oakland in 2005, and San Jose in 2003 for peacefully demonstrating at circuses, by local police who had been hired by Ringling to patrol the grounds and discourage protests. In response, he has pursued several civil suits against each venue, winning them all, and earning the right to leaflet at all three. Most recently, Pat and other activists were arrested for demonstrating at the circus in Sacramento in May 2011, and they will be filing a new civil suit to defend their right to leaflet there as well.
For information on upcoming Ringling Bros demonstrations in San Francisco and Oakland, and to view photos from Ringling's San Jose appearance, please see:
Deniz Bolbol watches the Ringling elephants over a wall with the use of a videocamera on the end of a pole. She remarks that the elephants appear beaten down in the way they respond to their handlers. In 2004, Deniz Bolbol recorded a Ringling handler stabbing and jabbing a 7-year-old chained elephant named Angelica outside of the Oakland Arena as Ringling walked Angelica to the venue to perform. The footage received extensive news coverage. Ringling responded the following year by arresting Deniz for trespassing when she tried to videorecord from the same location, leading to the Oakland civil suit and Deniz winning the right to record outside of the arena. Now, however, Ringling no longer walks the elephants back and forth three times during each show but keeps the elephants within the perimeter wall the entire time. Additionally, at the San Jose show, Ringling shined a strobe light at one of the cameras attempting to record over the wall.
Deniz says that the animals are just commodities to Ringling as they are shuffled from city to city all year except for a few weeks during the winter. Ringling has been documented repeatedly beating their elephants and chaining them for extended periods of time. Some elephants have been forced to perform in service of Ringling's profits for decades. One such elephant named Sarah who collapsed while being loaded into a boxcar in Anaheim on August 6th has been forced to perform for Ringling for 50 years, including in the show that night in San Jose.
Deniz discusses how Ringling coopts the corporate media in towns to which the circus travels, in order to guarantee that coverage of the circus is positive and doesn't mention the presence of protesters or tales of animal abuse. In San Jose for instance, NBC-11 sent a news van out to do a story on opening night at the circus, but neglected to talk with anyone associated with the demonstration, much less even mention that a huge number of people were present protesting. The reason? NBC was an official sponsor of the circus and the station's weatherperson, Christina Loren, was an honorary master of ceremony and ringmaster for the Ringling show in San Jose.