More than a dozen people, including 12-year-old Rose McCoy, were arrested after they allegedly tried to block the path of SeaWorld's float during yesterday's Rose Parade in Pasadena, according to authorities and protesters.
PETA, which organized the demonstration to bring attention to SeaWorld's display of orca whales kept in captivity, says 18 supporters were arrested. Pasadena police put the number at 16:
Blocking a public event is a misdemeanor. The suspects were booked and released, police said.
PETA said in a statement last night that protesters were "led by 12-year-old Rose McCoy," who "ran onto the parade route and sat down in front of the float to make the point that SeaWorld needs to stop imprisoning orcas and depriving them of all that is natural and important to them."
The attempted blockade and subsequent arrests happened about 9:30 a.m. at Orange Grove Boulevard and Ellis Street, a location ahead of the parade's official route.
The protest, which stopped the float for as much as a minute while demonstrators sat down and were arrested, was not captured by the television cameras that broadcast the Rose Parade nationally, but some local news crews, along with PETA, did get video of the events.
PETA says its senior vice president, Pasadena resident Lisa Lange, along with Gretchen Ryan, who is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair, were arrested along with the group.
In total there were nearly 100 demonstrators wearing "Boycott SeaWorld" T-shirts who followed the float along its route, the organization says.
Cloris Leachman, the 2008 Rose Parade grand marshal, had urged organizers to reject SeaWorld's whale-themed float, and Willie Nelson, the Barenaked Ladies, Heart, Martina McBride, Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon and Trisha Yearwood have rejected offers to perform during the parade to protest SeaWorld's inclusion, PETA says.
Rose, the 12-year-old protestor, says:
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I couldn't imagine being separated from my mom and put in a cement box so people could pay to gawk at me, but that's what SeaWorld does when it snatches baby orcas from their moms. I hope families will realize the suffering in every single tiny tank at SeaWorld and stay a mile away.
SeaWorld sent us a statement before the parade that called PETA "an extremist organization" whose claims about its treatment of ocras are "without merit:"
There is no organization more passionately committed to the physical, mental and social care and well-being of animals than SeaWorld. The real advocates for animals are the trainers, aviculturists, animal-care staff and veterinarians at SeaWorld. We believe most Americans recognize that SeaWorld, not PETA, is the real animal welfare organization.