First they ignore you.
Then they ridicule you.
And then they attack you and want to burn you.
Yesterday, Sunday 24 March 2013 I attended, as an observer, the Animal Liberation Queensland/Coast To Coast Animal Friends organised protest against Lennon Bros Circus on the Gold Coast.
It was also the first time in my nearly 20 years as a vegan activist that I have felt embarrassed to be known as one.
Whilst I thought it might have been highly possible that I would receive a little bit of a cold reception by those who think that it is all about them, I honestly never in my wildest dreams thought for a moment that what actually happened, would have.
I would like to also make it clear, the reason I turned up to where the protest was being held, was to have a rational discussion with those who were interested about why I do not believe that this type of protest is effective in getting the public to take notice of why animals shouldn’t be viewed as property, and to promote veganism and vegan education. Something that BOTH Animal Liberation Queensland and Coast To Coast Animal Friends had prohibited from ‘their’ events.
I had been at the protest site for less 30 minutes wandering through the crowd talking to both protesters and circus goers alike, when I decided to talk to some of the members of the Queensland Police Service – Public Safety Response Team about the difference in presence between this protest and the previous one two weeks earlier. It was during this discussion that I noticed the organiser of Coast To Coast Animal Friends, Shane Waett and friend coincidently move positions to where I was standing. I was in the process of politely thanking the police officers for their time, when the abuse from Ms Waett began. I was told that there were well over 70 people at the previous protest, not the between 30 and 70 people, depending on who you listen to, that I quoted. I explained to her that I said that because there were a number of different figures quoted by different sources. Ms Waett then proceeded to harass me, arrogantly asking me why I was talking to the police when they were ‘there for them’. The abuse and harassment from the protest organiser continued in full view of the police, the general community, and other protesters.
It was at about this point that the male that slinked over with her, who I now believe is her partner Kevin, started to abuse and harass me. He asked me why I was there, mistakenly claiming that I had been ‘slagging off’ his partner’s group and ALQ all week. I told him that my critique of Coast To Coast Animal Friends was in accordance with my belief that single issue campaigns and campaigns based on intimidation are ineffective – this has been my position for a number of years.
The discussion was briefly interrupted by another protester abusing one of the Public Safety Response Team members who was standing there, and I used that opportunity to thank them for their time again and head off. As I was doing so, I heard ‘Kevin’ make a cowardly comment that was designed to be extremely insulting to me about my partner. Ms Waett pulled him up saying, “We can’t say that” which was a little bit pointless because he already had.
I believed that that would have been the extent of their rant, except unfortunately I was very mistaken. Sometime near the end of the protest, Ms Waett did what all bullies do, and went looking for an easier target to harass. She believed that she found one in my partner and her friend. These two young females were harassed and interrogated by her over alleged inappropriate comments that had been made on a Facebook thread somewhere and over things that I had written.
Just in case you missed that bit, I will repeat it. Shane Waett, the leader and organiser of Coast To Coast Animal Friends, was harassing two young girls over a comment that they made in a facebook thread, along with the previous AusVegan.com articles that I had written – something that neither of them had any input in or control of.
The president of Animal Liberation Queensland, Chay Neal, even made inappropriate comments to my partner about me.
At no point during this whole farce of a protest was I disrespectful or abusive to anyone, regardless of whether they were a circus goer or a protestor.
Let me make this perfectly clear. Bullying my family and friends because of something that I have written or said is nothing short of cowardice, and should not be tolerated or accepted by anyone, regardless of what your views or beliefs may be. Let alone a group of allegedly mature adults who claim to be showing others how compassionate they are.
To that end, I hold those in Animal Liberation Queensland and Coast To Coast Animal Friends personally responsible for the anguish and distress that my partner and friends have suffered, and look forward to a public apology for their behaviour.
[GARD]As with all intimidating behaviours, the events of Sunday have not nor will not be used to bully myself or my family into submission. In fact it has strengthened our resolve even further, showing us that what we are doing is right, and for the benefit of ALL animals – not our own egos or self promotion.
To every single person who was at that protest and took part in the dirty looks, the gossip, and snide remarks all because someone else said that you had to, I hope that you honestly feel proud of yourself and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. It’s those you claim to advocate on behalf of that you’ve let down more than me or my family and friends