Wednesday, April 28, 2010 2:53 AM | By Bill Bush
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Bexley officials upset; police see no violation
A protester from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wearing an injured-elephant costume, attracts Montrose Elementary students.
The kids seemed to love it. The Bexley schools superintendent did not.
The animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – known for its publicity-grabbing stunts to highlight its campaign against animal cruelty – showed up at a Bexley elementary school yesterday to protest the treatment of elephants by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Seeing that the dismissal of school was turning into, well, a circus, the principal called in the Bexley police, who quickly determined that no laws were being broken. It was just a person dressed in a cartoonish elephant costume – with a bloody bandage on its head – and a woman handing out comic books to kids leaving Montrose Elementary after the school day.
The kids soon were swarming the elephant, getting hugs, taking photos and picking up the free comic books depicting a story about how circus elephants are abused and telling them they should buy tickets only to animal-free circuses.
Why an elementary school?
“I think that if we try to protect (children) from everything, then they’re not going to be able to make educated decisions about what they want to support,” said Virginia Fort, a PETA employee who was handing out the books. “Obviously, they’re smart enough to understand this. We’re hoping the children will take the information home to their parents.”
Fort and the elephant – Holly Petersen, a 21-year-old PETA intern from New Zealand – travel to cities ahead of the Ringling Bros. circus, which is to be at Nationwide Arena on May 13-16.
An angry Bexley school Superintendent Michael Johnson told Fort that his students have nothing to do with the debate over circus elephants’ care.
“I would prefer that you take this to someplace where they are abusing animals,” Johnson told Fort. “This is desensitizing children to come up to a stranger.”
Standing on the public sidewalk, Fort and the elephant politely declined to leave. Bexley Police Sgt. Ken Gough said the protest might have caused a stir, but it wasn’t illegal.
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