Detroit CARE members Jennifer Kierszkowski (left) and Kelly Harrison display signs outside the Melvindale Civic Center on Monday evening reading, “Wild animals do not belong in circuses” and “Stop animal abuse in circuses!” as crowds came and went for the Circus Pages’ two shows.
By CHRIS JACKETT
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – Animal rights activists were outside the Civic Center on Monday to protest a circus group’s treatment of large animals ranging from tigers to two African elephants.
Florida-based Circus Pages puts on 90-minute circus shows across the country throughout the year. The organization was in Wyandotte last month and at the Melvindale Civic Center, 4300 S. Dearborn St., on Monday.
However, wherever the group takes its show, different protestors and activists seem to follow. Three activists attempted to block the doorway at the Wyandotte show June 19 before moving and then fleeing before police arrived at the scene.
At the Melvindale show, a month-old nonprofit group called the Detroit Coalition for Animal Rights and Equality held its first protest outside the Civic Center based on the multiple U.S. Department of Agriculture citations Circus Pages has received from 1992 to 2007 for treatment of its animals and lack of proper veterinary records.
“It started two months ago, but took full effect a month ago when volunteers were first recruited and protests and boycotts were planned,” said lifelong activist and Detroit CARE founder Nate German, who uses the name N. Brant in his group’s business dealings. “The two main things are probably they don’t have proof of any veterinary records since 1994, and the Animal Welfare Act has accused them of not giving (their animals) enough room or feeding them enough food, or the right food.
“I just want you to know what they’ve been through, and maybe you’ll think about going again, because going again, because they come every year.”
German said his new organization had just six activists at the event from 3 to 8 p.m. to demonstrate outside the 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. shows, but more people were planning to come protest until a police presence forced the group to move across the street.
“Considering this was our first protest, not many people were there,” German said. “As soon as word hit the police were there, people decided they were not going to come. We just had to move across the street so we weren’t on the property.
The whole goal of the organization is positive activism, not (negative demonstrations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The ringmaster came out and started badmouthing us because he thought we were PETA.”
With about 25 members after one month of recruiting, German hopes Detroit CARE can grow to the point where it has paid employees. He has set up a blog (www.detroitcare.blogspot.com) for the group and is in the process of creating a Website.
He said he created the group because animal rights activists have been taking the wrong approach.
“My whole life, I’ve been an animal rights activist, and I’ve always believed they’ve done it the wrong way,” German said, citing extremists who throw paint on fur coats or lay naked in the street. “The best way to do it is literature and peaceful protests.”
Because it didn’t have a solicitor’s license, German said his group could only hand out informational pamphlets to people who asked. He said the event went “pretty smoothly.” Despite insults from some passers-by, he said others were genuinely interested in hearing the group’s message.
“It was a very simple protest. Some things were victories, others were embarrassing,” German said. “They had a Siberian tiger that was in a cage so small it couldn’t turn around.”
Circus manager Jorge Page acknowledged the protestors, but didn’t respond to multiple questions regarding his circus’s veterinary care, stating only that his paperwork was in order if authorities need it.
“I know they were there, but I just work in the back and do my thing,” he said.
Melvindale Senior/Recreation Coordinator Ryan Massolia said protestors at the circus are common whenever it comes to town, but didn’t see any problems with Circus Pages’ arrangement last week.
“They’re here usually every year and do a show; one day with two shows,” he said. “They’re very clean and organized and they do their setup in the morning and they’re gone the next day.
“It was really cool. They do a very nice show; nice people.”
For more information on Detroit CARE e-mail [email protected].